President Donald Trump’s surprise attack on Tuesday on Congressional historic coronavirus relief program left aid to millions of Americans on hold as the pandemic continues to hit the country.
The famously unpredictable president called the $ 2.3 trillion bill a “shame” less than 24 hours after Congress approved the legislation with overwhelming bipartisan votes. Trump has demanded larger stimulus payments for individuals and called for the elimination of “unnecessary and unnecessary items,” but he did not say whether he would veto them.
Trump’s last-minute demands sent shockwaves through Washington, however. In addition to the $ 900 billion in pandemic-related measures, the package includes $ 1.4 trillion to fund government operations through next September. If the president does not sign the law by December 28, government funding would expire after midnight that day, triggering a partial shutdown.
The angst could be deepest among the president’s Republican colleagues, who preferred a smaller pandemic relief program closer to $ 500 billion. They agreed to a $ 900 billion effort at the end, under political cost pressure to delay the relief package just weeks before a decisive runoff for the two Georgia Senate seats, which will determine control of that chamber. .
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly seized on Trump’s call for $ 2,000 in individual stimulus payments – well in excess of the $ 600 included in the relief bill – and said the House would attempt to ‘adopt the additional measure in a pro forma session Thursday, a move that could be blocked by a single congressman.
Republicans have repeatedly refused to say how much the president wants for direct checks. Finally, the President has accepted the sum of $ 2,000 – Democrats are prepared to bring this matter forward this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!https://t.co/Th4sztrpLV– Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi)December 23, 2020
This bill would be a stand-alone measure to remove all references to $ 600 in the current law, to be replaced by $ 2,000, according to two people familiar with the plan. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was on boardand challengedMajority leader Mitch McConnell agrees.
Increasing the payment amounts to $ 2,000 would raise the cost of this provision to over $ 500 billion, a significant increase from the more than $ 160 billion that the Joint Committee on Taxation predicts as current payments of $ 600 to most Americans will cost.
Booming virus cases
While many Senate Republicans are likely to balk at such a request, Missouri Republican Josh Hawley had joined progressives in calling for direct payments of at least $ 1,200. His proposal was blocked in the Senate last week by Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin.
The Covid-19 relief deal took more than six months to conclude and was only sealed after a frenzied weekend of negotiations between congressional leaders securing an end to this Congress. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of Trump’s main allies, urged him to sign the existing bill to provide relief to struggling businesses and families.
Cases of the virus continue to skyrocket in the United States – more than 18 million people have been infected and more than 322,000 have died – and job growth has slowed, which has heightened the sense of urgency at Capitol Hill.
If Trump vetoed or refused to sign the measure, he would suspend benefits from the previous Covid relief bill that expired at the end of the month, including a moratorium on evictions and extended unemployment insurance for those who lost their jobs during the pandemic – all of which were addressed in the giant package approved Monday night.
It would also mean that stimulus checks wouldn’t be issued in the days after Christmas, as Trump’s own aides had promised, companies wouldn’t receive access to additional loans and no new funding for vaccine distribution. , schools and airlines would be approved.
“I call on Congress to amend this bill,” Trump said in a video ad posted on Twitter. “Send me an appropriate invoice, otherwise the next administration will have to deliver a Covid relief package. And maybe that administration will be me, and we’ll get there.
Trump’s decision to publicly criticize the legislation came as a surprise, as his advisers had not hinted that he was unhappy with the bill and indicated he would sign it. Earlier on Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin praised the package, tweeting that it would bring “vital economic relief to American workers, families and businesses.”
Trump said in the video that the stimulus bill had “taken forever” to come together and accused Democrats of “cruelly blocking” aid to improve their chances of winning the 2020 election.
Yet for months the president took an essentially hands-off approach to negotiations with Congress. He refused to engage directly with Pelosi, and he did not call bipartisan meetings in the White House to reach a deal. Instead, Trump focused on his ill-fated efforts to reverse his defeat to President-elect Joe Biden over baseless allegations that widespread voter fraud tainted the November 3 election results.
Still, Trump had privately indicated that he was not happy with some of the provisions. He was working on a statement calling for $ 2,000 stimulus checks, but White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has raised objections to its release, fearing it could torpedo fragile talks, according to someone familiar with the matter.
Trump released the video at a time when a number of his top aides, including Meadows, were out of town for the holidays.
Trump’s about-face on the stimulus comes as he expressed his anger at Senate Republicans for refusing to vocally support his extraordinary attempt to overturn Biden’s victory. On Tuesday evening, the president attacked Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the second Republican in this chamber. Thune said Monday that any attempt by a handful of House conservatives to challenge the electoral college’s results proclaiming Joe Biden the next president “falls like a hound.”
“RINO John Thune, ‘Mitch’s boy,’ should just let play,” Trump said Tuesday, using a Republicans abbreviation in name only and referring to McConnell. “South Dakota doesn’t like weakness. He will be awarded in 2022, political career ended !!! “
In criticizing the virus relief package, Trump appeared to be leaning to the right flank of his party who criticized the package and also backed his efforts to undermine the election. His public criticism came a day after a White House meeting with a cadre of conservative members of the House. Another staunch GOP supporter, Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, applauded the move, comparing it to that of the 2018 president.wishto never sign another massive spending bill.
Trump’s social media chief Dan Scavino announced Trump’s move by attacking the stimulus package on a Tuesday morning Facebook Publish. “The COVID Bill / Relief Package is a TOTAL DISGRACE, INSULT and EMBARRASSMENT !!” Wrote Scavino.
However, opposing the bill creates a difficult situation for Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler who seek re-election in the second round in Georgia on January 5. Both have touted their votes for the virus relief program in campaigns against their Democratic opponents, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
Ossoff, who called the $ 600 checks a “joke,” sued Perdue following Trump’s statement.
Trump’s comments are just the latest mixed signals about his priorities for pandemic relief, showing how his chaotic approach has complicated negotiations. In October, he withdrew his team from talks with Democrats and then demanded a bigger bill than Pelosi herself had favored.
Senior Senate GOP members have counted on keeping the relief effort below $ 1 trillion as a victory, compared to the $ 2 trillion and more wanted by Democrats.
–With help from Saleha Mohsin, Josh Wingrove, Justin Sink, Steven T. Dennis and Billy House.
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