Trump accuses Biden-Harris of ‘anti-vaccine rhetoric’ in Labor Day presser; faces ‘cash crunch’

By Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver 

Lawmakers are bracing for a tumultuous post-Labor Day stretch as they start returning to Washington today and political gridlock complicates nearly every effort, with the November elections standing only 56 days away.

The Senate is set to reconvene today, while the House is expected to return in full next week. However, their return is unlikely to change much as a deal on a coronavirus relief package remains well out of reach and lawmakers have retreated into their political bunkers to ride out the remaining eight weeks until Election Day.

On Monday, President Trump laid those complications bare as he held a news conference from the North Portico — a rare location — to launch blistering attacks against former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), claiming that they would “collapse” the economy if elected. He also criticized them for engaging in “anti-vaccine rhetoric” (The Hill).

“Contrary to all of the lies, Biden wants to surrender our country to the virus,” Trump said during the 46-minute press conference. “He wants to surrender our families to the violent left-wing mob, and he wants to surrender our jobs to China. Our jobs and economic well-being.”

“Biden doesn’t have a clue,” he said, adding at one point that the former VP is “stupid.” “You know he doesn’t have a clue. In prime time he wasn’t good, and now it is not prime time.” 

As Trump spoke, Biden appeared in Lancaster, Pa., — one of two Labor Day stops — and told reporters that he would get a vaccine tomorrow if public health experts deem it safe and effective. However, he continued to criticize the president for politicizing the approval process.

“One of the problems with playing with politics is he’s said so many things that aren’t true, I’m worried if we do have a really good vaccine, people are going to be reluctant to take it,” Biden said. “He’s undermining public confidence. But pray God, we have it — if I could get a vaccine tomorrow, I’d do it. If it cost me the election, I’d do it. We need a vaccine and we need it now” (CBS News). 

The Associated Press: Trump, Biden spar over economy, workers in Labor Day blitz.

The Hill: Biden vows to be “strongest labor president you’ve ever had.”

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The Washington Post: Trump says he’s open to investigation of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s campaign fundraising.

The presence of the campaign has also helped to derail negotiations toward another massive COVID-19 relief package, which have been largely dormant for nearly a month after talks broke down due to its potential size and scope. Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), want any package to eclipse $2 trillion, while White House negotiators have refused to budge north of $1.3 trillion.

When asked why he hasn’t invited Pelosi and Schumer to the White House in an attempt to nail down a deal to inject more stimulus into the economy — which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin still believes is necessary, Trump indicated that the idea is futile.

“They don’t want to make a deal because they think it’s good for politics if they don’t make a deal. …  I know who I’m dealing with. I don’t need to meet with them to be turned down,” Trump said.

When a reporter followed up asking why Trump doesn’t take the high road and invite them, he responded: “I am taking the high road. I’m taking the high road by not seeing them. If I thought it would make a difference, I would do it in a minute.”

With the upper chamber back in session, Senate Republicans are expected to move toward a $500 billion targeted package as soon as this week. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a member of GOP leadership, said over the weekend that they expect opposition from Democratic leaders on the slimmed down bill (The Washington Post).

One potential headache that is seemingly in the rearview mirror as Congress returns is a potential government shutdown. Over the weekend, Mnuchin and Pelosi announced a deal to pass a clean funding bill to keep the government open until December at the current levels.

Worth noting: Trump himself has not yet weighed in on whether he supports a clean funding package, and nothing is final until he says so. There are 22 days until the government runs out of funding.

The Hill: Discord over state and local funds plagues coronavirus talks.

Alexander Bolton, The Hill: Emboldened Democrats haggle over 2021 agenda.

Politico: Trump says Pentagon chiefs are accommodating weapons makers.

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