Thursday, March 23, 2023

Republicans block demand for $ 2,000 pandemic relief checks

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Republicans in the House of Representatives have blocked efforts by the Democratic Party to give Americans larger pandemic relief payments, escalating a crisis sparked by Donald Trump. objection to a $ 900 billion stimulus package passed by Congress.

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the Democratic House, failed to get Republicans’ agreement to increase the value of pandemic relief checks of $ 600 per person agreed in legislation to $ 2,000. Mr Trump said earlier this week that the bill his team had helped negotiate was a “disgrace” and demanded higher payments.

Mr Trump sparked the year-end chaos on Tuesday by stunning even his own party and advisers by defeating the bill, which passed on Monday after months of controversial negotiations. Democrats had pushed for $ 2,000 stimulus checks, but were rejected by Republicans because higher out-of-pocket payments would have significantly increased the price of the relief program.

Democrats, who control the House, will hold a vote on higher controls on Monday, which failed Thursday because it required “unanimous consent” under the rules of procedure. The measure is expected to pass due to Democrat control over the chamber, but it is unclear whether the Republican-controlled Senate will agree to increase stimulus payments.

The crisis on Capitol Hill has sparked fears about the government shutting down during the holidays. The $ 900 billion measure has been linked with a $ 1.4 billion omnibus spending bill to fund the government and, unless Mr. Trump signs the package by midnight Monday, he will run out of money. .

As both houses of Congress passed government funding and the Covid-19 relief plan with the more than two-thirds majority required to overturn a presidential veto, it remains to be seen whether Mr. Trump’s surprise rejection has altered political calculation for some legislators.

If the Senate does not follow through with the House’s expected decision on Monday in backing larger relief checks, Congress will need to secure a short-term funding extension to keep government open. But the tight schedule due to the vacation period increased the chances of a shutdown.

Mr. Trump’s eleventh-hour intervention created a political conundrum for Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader in the Senate. Democrats have started using Mr. Trump’s call for higher payments to attack Republican senators from Georgia, who are trying to hold onto their seats in two run-off elections next month.

Mr Trump sparked further chaos on Wednesday when he officially veto annual defense spending legislation, a $ 740 billion bill that funds everything from weapon development and acquisition to military pay.

Congress is expected to overturn the veto – for the first time under Mr. Trump’s presidency – as few lawmakers want to block legislation that pays the salaries of U.S. troops, especially during the holiday season.

The year-end turmoil in Washington comes as Mr. Trump still refuses to accept the outcome of the November presidential election, which he lost to Joe Biden. The president has continued in recent days to meet with lawyers and allies who have propagated savage conspiracy theories about voter fraud and corruption.

Mr. Trump has targeted Republicans, including Mr. McConnell, who have admitted Mr. Biden will become president on January 20.

In the days leading up to Christmas, Mr. Trump also released over 40 pardons, which drew strong criticism, including from Republicans. On Wednesday, he pardoned Paul Manafort, his former presidential campaign manager, and Charles Kushner, whose son Jared is married to his daughter Ivanka.

He also granted pardons to four former private security contractors who killed unarmed Iraqi civilians while working in Baghdad for Blackwater, a company founded by Erik Prince, whose sister Betsy DeVos is secretary of education.

And he pardoned two former members of Congress who had been convicted of crimes, as well as two people convicted in connection with the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Ben Sasse, a senator from Nebraska who is there one of the few Republican critics of Mr. Trump, described the barrage of pardons as “rotten to the bottom.”

To follow Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter


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