President Donald Trump predicted Thursday morning the U.S. will lose “over 100,000” people to the coronavirus, but also said “we will have a vaccine by the end of the year.”
In an interview on FOX Business Network, Trump also said he disagrees with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who told a Senate committee earlier this year it is unlikely a vaccine would be ready in time for the school year.
“So [Dr.] Anthony [Fauci] is a good person, a very good person – I've disagreed with him,” Trump said. “We have to get the schools open, we have to get our country open, we have to open our country. Now we want to do it safely, but we also want to do it as quickly as possible, we can't keep going on like this … You're having bedlam already in the streets, you can't do this. We have to get it open. I totally disagree with him on schools.”
Trump’s interview was televised only hours before the federal government is set to release new unemployment numbers. A tidal wave of layoffs has caused tens of millions of workers to lose their jobs in a U.S. economy still paralyzed by business shutdowns.
The Labor Department will likely announce that millions more people filed for unemployment benefits last week, after 33 million sought aid in the previous seven weeks as the coronavirus forced employers across the country to close.
Trump also said his political opponents want him to keep the economy closed going into the presidential election.
"The people that want to see the right thing happen, they agree with me,” Trump said. “We have to get our country open," Trump said. "You know, if it was up to some people let's keep it closed for a long time ... and watch the United States go down the tubes. Not gonna happen. Never gonna happen on my watch."
On Friday, House Democrats say they are planning to vote on the party’s new, $3 trillion coronoavirus relief package, the largest such package ever considered since the pandemic began. But Republicans aren’t ready for another round of coronavirus aid, instead urging a “pause.”
Polls show GOP voters think the government is already doing enough. Republicans on Capitol Hill are divided over the best approach. Billions approved by Congress have yet to be spent. And it’s also unclear what Trump wants to do next, if anything, to juice the economy — his payroll tax cut idea hasn’t gained any traction on Capitol Hill.
The political balancing act comes as the long-dormant deficit-hawk wing of the GOP lumbers back to life, recoiling from the House Democratic proposal to spend another $3 trillion in taxpayer money. Yet many Republicans concede there is risk to standing pat at a time of massive unemployment, financial struggles for local governments and growing COVID-19 caseloads, particularly with the November election fast approaching.
Despite their distaste for further negotiations with Democrats, many Republicans privately see passage of another coronavirus measure as inevitable.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a proponent of the “pause,” said Tuesday that Republicans are “taking a look at what we’ve already done. And we’ve added about $3 trillion to the national debt, and assessing the effectiveness of that before deciding to go forward.”
Yet McConnell also cracked open the door, cautiously, to more legislation, provided that it is “narrowly targeted.”
“I’m in discussion, we all are, with the administration. If we reach a decision along with the administration to move to another phase, that’ll be the time to interact with the Democrats,” he said.
The president and deputies like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have signaled a willingness to deliver aid to state and local governments — funding that is a core demand of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. And Trump at one point even floated a massive debt-financed effort on infrastructure, leaving many conservatives aghast.
Trump himself has cautioned Republicans against drawing a red line against state and local aid. The president is talking to governors, noted a top House GOP leadership aide who requested anonymity to describe private conversations. The aide emphasized that the president remains extremely popular in most Republican congressional districts and still gives members a lot of cover by going along with him.
“As states begin to reopen we need to wait and see where and what the need is, but the policy process is ongoing at the White House,” said a White House aide, requesting anonymity to describe internal dynamics. “The president has said more help is coming.”
Many think the next coronavirus bill, when it passes, will be the last one for a while, with Congress likely to maintain an intermittent schedule as the election nears.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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