WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s reversal on coronavirus relief legislation might be giving Sen. Todd Young policy whiplash.

Just days after exhorting his administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to reach an agreement on a package to boost an economy ravaged by COVID-19, Trump abruptly switched gears on Tuesday and called off negotiations.

That change of heart forced Young to modify his own position on getting a recovery package through Congress before the election. He was looking forward to that outcome a few days ago and completely abandoned hope as of yesterday morning.

Young’s gyrations were evident in two meetings with reporters – one on Zoom on Friday, Oct. 2, and one on a conference call on Wednesday morning.

“I think we’re getting closer to an agreement between [Treasury Secretary] Steven Mnuchin on one hand, who’s representing the administration in these negotiations, and Nancy Pelosi on the other to try and reach a reasonable agreement to provide relief for our small businesses, our health care providers, our school corporations, our childcare centers – all the other entities and individuals within this ecosystem that makes our society operate,” Young told reporters on Oct. 2.

The Johnson County Republican had a sense of urgency about hammering out an agreement.

“This is an emergency. It is important for Congress to be able to act,” Young said. “It’s unfortunate that the bill we passed out of the Senate was not something that received much attention over in the House of Representatives because there’s significant overlap between that legislation and the [House bill]. But I’m always open to principled compromise and I really hope we can pass a bill now rather than waiting until after the election.”

Young has his own policy stake in the debate over virus relief. He is co-author of the RESTART Act along with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. The legislation would provide loans to cover six months of payroll, benefits and fixed operating expenses for small and medium-size businesses that have lost substantial revenue due to the pandemic, according to a fact sheet. The measure has about 58 bipartisan co-sponsors.

“I played a significant role in this overall effort to provide a fulsome and responsible legislative package in this phase four [pandemic recovery] initiative,” Young said on Oct. 2. “I’m hopeful something gets done and count me in as someone who has given fair consideration to whatever might be agreed upon by the administration and Speaker Pelosi.”

That sounds like the Young Hoosiers have gotten to know over his tenure in the House and Senate. He’s an earnest legislator who once called himself a “policy entrepreneur.”

But that wasn’t the Young who spoke to reporters on Wednesday following Trump’s pulling the plug on pandemic legislation negotiations. In order to stay in line with his party’s leader, Young suddenly began sounding like a partisan hack.

“Democrats have been unwilling to reach a deal for the good of the American people,” Young said in the conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

Brian Francisco of the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette pressed Young on why Senate Republicans were prioritizing before the election the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and lives in South Bend, over the passage of coronavirus relief.

Young laid the blame at the feet of Pelosi, the same person he characterized as being on the verge of an agreement with the administration just a few days ago. Now she is the political villain pushing bailouts for state and local governments that Republicans think don’t deserve them.

“The reason for that is Nancy Pelosi and her continued reluctance to be a good-faith negotiator when it comes to delivering a phase four economic relief package,” Young said. “That is the reason the president decided to end these sham negotiations where Speaker Pelosi has really not made serious efforts to find common ground with us as it relates to coronavirus negotiations.”

Young added: “On multiple occasions, national Democrats have blocked targeted relief efforts, and the left-wing radicals, who are really driving the agenda, especially I the House of Representatives, are winning out.”

Young portrayed the Senate as doing the people’s work.

“I am unapologetic in saying that the Republican-controlled Senate is actually trying to be responsive to the needs of their constituents, and will continue to work towards that end before the election through the nomination process and hopefully confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett and after the election, when I hope a phase four package can come together,” he said.

Just hours after ending negotiations on Tuesday, Trump made another reversal and called for relief for individual Americans and for the airline industry. Perhaps Young will have to adjust his stance on negotiations again. 

Schoeff is Washington correspondent for Howey Politics Indiana.