The COVID-19 aid agreement remains in limbo during Christmas after House Republicans rejected President Donald Trump’s demand for $ 2,000 stimulus checks on Thursday, while the president spent the day playing golf in Florida.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi submitted a unanimous request for consent to increase direct payments, which was quickly blocked by Republicans in a rare Christmas Eve session in the House.
The White House reportedly told Republican congressmen to vote for the $ 900 billion stimulus package, but Trump surprised lawmakers when he called the bipartisan deal “doom” on Tuesday – a day after he passed overwhelmingly through the House and Senate after months of stalemate.
The president hinted that he would not sign the legislation unless it was amended to increase stimulus payments from $ 600 to $ 2,000, an idea that was quickly adopted by Democrats who were pushing for higher payments.
But he left Washington DC for Florida on Wednesday without clarifying whether he plans to veto the bill.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen next. And that must be scary for the American people now,” Democratic Rep. Andy Kim told CNN. “That we have a president who is confused here and playing politics with our lives.”
Without the president’s signature, the desperately needed help, including unemployment insurance and eviction protection, is at risk. Two expanded CARES unemployment programs expire on December 26 and, without additional help, millions of struggling Americans would be pushed into poverty next month.
And since the coronavirus aid package was tied to a $ 1.4 trillion government spending account, the federal government is moving towards a standstill next week, unless an agreement is reached.
Lawmakers will return to the House for a registered vote on a stand-alone $ 2,000 stimulus check bill on Monday.
In a statement after Thursday’s session, Pelosi said: “Voting against this bill is to deny the financial difficulties that families face and to deny them the relief they need. Hopefully, by then, the president will have already signed the bipartisan legislation. and bicameral to keep government open and to provide relief for the coronavirus. “
She accused House Republicans of “cruelly” depriving Americans of the $ 2,000 payments that the president agreed to support and asked Trump to include them.
“If the president takes direct payments of $ 2,000 seriously, he should ask House Republicans to end their obstruction,” she said.
Trump, meanwhile, spent Thursday playing golf and protesting Republicans, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, for not supporting his efforts to subvert the results of the presidential election.
McConnell has remained silent since Trump threatened to suspend the coronavirus aid package unless stimulus payments were increased, which the majority leader and Republicans resisted during the negotiations.
In his first tweet since he told Americans on Monday that they can “be sure more help is on the way, immediately” after the deal was approved by Congress, McConnell shared a video on Friday morning wishing Americans “a healthy Merry Christmas”.