$600-a-week unemployment benefits expire, posing fresh danger to Trump’s re-election

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WASHINGTON — A crucial week on Capitol Hill that began with a rocky Republican rollout of a coronavirus relief package ended with a complete breakdown in negotiations, threatening to deepen the perils of an already embattled President Donald Trump.

The Republican-led Senate adjourned Thursday for a long weekend with no action on COVID-19 relief, all but ensuring that a $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit would expire Friday.

The payment has been a financial lifeline for more than 20 million out-of-work Americans. The U.S. recorded its worst quarterly economic contraction ever Thursday — during a week when the national death toll from the virus topped 150,000.

It was a precarious position for Trump, who has gotten low marks in surveys for his handling of a crisis that has devastated Americans — and is about to get worse for many of them. The recent slide has left him trailing Democrat Joe Biden by more than 8 points in the FiveThirtyEight average of national polls.

“When things go wrong with government policy, voters blame the president,” Jack Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, said in an email. “The classic case is Herbert Hoover and the Depression. Carter and Bush 41 lost their reelection bids because of economic downturns that were much less severe.”

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