United States President Donald Trump tried to salvage a few priority items lost in the rubble of Covid-19 relief talks that he himself blew up.
He pressed for US$1200 stimulus pay and new aid for airlines and other businesses hard hit by the pandemic.
But it's not clear whether he can undo the self-inflicted political damage so close to the election.
In a barrage of tweets, Trump pressed for passage of these chunks of assistance, an about-face from his abrupt and puzzling move yesterday to abandon talks with a longtime rival, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The California Democrat has rejected such piecemeal entreaties all along.
Trump's tweets amounted to him demanding his way in negotiations that he himself had ended.
Trump, who absorbed much political heat for abandoning the talks, is the steward of an economy whose continued recovery may hinge on significant new steps such as pandemic unemployment benefits. His tweets seemed to move the financial markets into positive territory, though it was far from certain whether they would impress voters demanding more relief.
He called on Congress to send him a "Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus [cheques] ($1200)" — a reference to a preelection batch of direct payments to most Americans that had been a central piece of negotiations between Pelosi and the White House.
"I am ready to sign right now. Are you listening Nancy?" Trump said on Twitter. He also urged Congress to immediately approve US$25 billion for airlines and US$135b for a programme to help small businesses.
Trump's decision to scuttle talks between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Pelosi came after the President was briefed on the landscape for the negotiations — and on the blowback that any Pelosi-Mnuchin deal probably would have received from his GOP allies in Congress.
"It became very obvious over the last couple of days that a comprehensive bill was just going to get to a point where it didn't have really much Republican support at all," White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said today on Fox News. "It was more of a Democrat-led bill, which would have been problematic, more so in the Senate than in the House."
Pelosi told reporters that "all the President wants is his name on a cheque" for direct aid payments.
The unexpected turn could be a blow to Trump's re-election prospects and comes as his Administration and campaign are in turmoil. Trump is quarantining in the White House with a case of the coronavirus, and the latest batch of opinion polls shows him significantly behind Democrat Joe Biden with the election four weeks away.
Pelosi and Mnuchin talked briefly today about the chances for a stand-alone airline rescue, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill tweeted. Pelosi directed Mnuchin to a measure she had attempted to pass on short notice under fast-track procedures, but only after Democrats made a number of changes Republicans did not like.