House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump have not spoken in nearly 10 months, even as negotiations between the White House and Congress to address the coronavirus pandemic have stalled.
Trump called the negotiators three times on Thursday night while they were in Pelosi’s office. But he only spoke with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to Meadows.
The calls underscored the rock-bottom relationship between the top leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties who are tasked with solving the health and economic crises.
Since then, the House impeached Trump, the President declined to shake her hand at the State of the Union, the speaker tore up his speech, the President said on Fox that she is “one of the worst speakers in the history of our country” and repeatedly called her “crazy Nancy.”
The feelings appear mutual.
“This President is the biggest failure in our history,” Pelosi told The New York Times on Friday. “I can’t think of anybody worse.”
During a time of crisis, leaders usually put aside their differences. That has not happened. The two haven’t spoken even as the number of coronavirus cases in the United States surpasses 5 million, a quarter of the world’s total cases.
Congress is now moving to pass the fifth in a series of emergency measures. One crucial provision — an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits — expired on July 31 and another — the Paycheck Protection Program, which helped keep millions of small businesses afloat — expired on August 8.
Pelosi has been negotiating with Mnuchin and Meadows — but the talks broke down on Friday and devolved into finger-pointing, with the White House advisers recommending Trump move ahead with a series of executive orders.
Trump announced on Saturday he would go around Congress to provide some of the additional unemployment benefits, consider temporarily halting residential evictions, defer the payroll tax paid by employees and extend student loan relief until the end of the year. Some of the orders, however, might be unconstitutional and unable to deliver the aid Trump promised.
On Monday, Mnuchin and Trump took divergent tactics to bring the Democrats back to negotiate.
The Treasury secretary said on CNBC that the administration is “prepared to put more money on the table,” expressing a willingness to spend above $1 trillion overall, particularly more on food assistance than it initially offered.
“I listened to the speaker over the weekend,” said Mnuchin. “She’s right. We started low on food. We realize there’s a lot of kids out there.”
They will “go down the list” on other issues, he added.
On Monday, Trump mocked Pelosi and Schumer and said in a tweet: “They know my phone number!”