Late Monday, it appeared that all of Washington had finally reached an agreement on funding the government through the end of the 2021 fiscal year and for the oft-delayed COVID-19 stimulus and relief bill. Both chambers of Congress have passed the stimulus and government funding package, but by Tuesday, President Donald Trump criticized the bipartisan package.
Trump called on Congress to increase the size of direct payments from $600 to $2,000, in an apparent dig against his party’s priorities in ironing out the stimulus plan. The Republican “skinny stimulus” did not include any checks for individuals, while the much larger $3.4 and $2.2 trillion Democratic plans both did.
A $1.8 trillion stimulus proposed by the White House before Election Day also contained individual checks for citizens, but a $904 billion bipartisan stimulus package released earlier this month had contained no individual stimulus checks. Trump demanded that the package include $2,000 individual stimulus checks, but at the insistence of aides had appeared to back off of that demand.
The $900 billion stimulus and relief bill that passed Congress on Monday contains $600 direct payments to Americans making less than $75,000 a year. After that, the stimulus decreases and goes away entirely for Americans earning $100,000 a year or more.
Though Trump is expected to sign the COVID relief package, Trump denounced it in a video Tuesday.
“It’s called the COVID relief bill, but it has almost nothing to do with COVID,” he said in a video. “I’m asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, praised the president’s demand for larger stimulus checks: “Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the president wanted for direct checks. At last, the president has agreed to $2,000. Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!”
The president did not say that he would veto the bipartisan legislation if his demands were not met, but called on Congress to remove “wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation.” Trump seemed mainly concerned with spending measures he did not like in the $1.4 trillion spending bill that keeps the government funded through the end of September.
The roughly $900 billion measure was attached to the $1.4 trillion spending bill to fund the federal government. The combined two measures form a nearly 5,600 page-bill that no member of Congress had time to read in its final form after it was crafted Sunday night.
The president has been preoccupied for the last several weeks with efforts to somehow overturn the Nov. 3 election results showing he lost to President-elect Joe Biden.
“I am also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation, and to send me a suitable bill, or else the next administration will have to deliver a Covid relief package,” Trump said. “And maybe that administration will be me, and we will get it done.”
Biden is set to be inaugurated on Jan. 20. Trump also released a video claiming that there was voter fraud in the Nov. 3 election, though there is no evidence for his claims.
If Trump vetoes the bill, Congress could override it with a two-thirds majority vote in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The COVID relief and government funding bill has strong bipartisan support, passing the House 359 to 53 and the Senate 92 to 6 — veto-proof majorities. The passage of this package does not preclude more direct payments in the future.
“We spent months trying to secure $2,000 checks but Republicans blocked it,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said. “Trump needs to sign the bill to help people and keep the government open and we’re glad to pass more aid Americans need. Maybe Trump can finally make himself useful and get Republicans not to block it again.”
If the government is not funded, a Christmas government shutdown is possible.