President Donald Trump at the United Nations, September 24, 2019.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters
President Donald Trump’s last-second opposition to a coronavirus relief and federally-funded bill already approved by Congress threatens to ignite unemployment benefits for millions of Americans and shut down the government during a deadly public health crisis.
After weeks without involvement in Congressional efforts to approve another aid package, the outgoing president shocked Washington on Tuesday night by calling the bill “disgrace” and pressuring lawmakers to increase direct payments from $ 600 to US $ 2,000.
Although he did not explicitly say whether he would veto the bill or simply refuse to sign it, Trump said that “the next government will have to deliver a Covid aid package” if Congress does not send it to review the legislation.
Any delay in becoming a law threatens financial ruin for Americans who are already struggling. The $ 900 billion portion of the coronavirus relief bill extends the expansions of the pandemic era of unemployment benefits, which cover 12 million people. Provisions expire on Saturday – the day after Christmas.
The $ 1.4 trillion endowment portion of the legislation would keep the federal government running until September 30. The government would be closed on Tuesday if it didn’t become law before then.
A federal eviction moratorium – which the legislation would extend to January 31 – would expire at the end of the year. Tens of millions of people could face the threat of losing their homes if the measure expires.
With Congress not approving new federal aid for most of the year, millions of people have fallen into poverty. The package would send temporary aid in the form of a $ 300 weekly federal unemployment supplement through mid-March, payments of $ 600 and $ 284 billion in loans to small businesses from the Salary Protection Program. It also contains more than $ 8 billion for Covid vaccine distribution, $ 25 billion for rental assistance, $ 82 billion for education and $ 45 billion for transportation – including funds to help airlines retain employees on the team.
If Trump vetoes the bill, Congress may meet again after Christmas to annul it. The measure passed through the two chambers with veto-proof majorities. Parliamentarians are already planning the possibility of returning if the president vetoes a national defense project.
As it takes days for Congress to formally send Trump a bill this size – 5,593 pages -, he hasn’t even arrived at his desk yet. The president can end the legislation through a so-called pocket veto, if that doesn’t reach him by Thursday or later. He could leave the 10-day period for signing the bill (which excludes Sundays) ending before the new Congress session starts on January 3.
Trump had weeks to tailor the bill to his liking before Congress wrote and approved the bailout package and left Washington for the holidays. Instead, he has spent the past six weeks spreading conspiracy theories that widespread fraud cost him the November 3 presidential race against President-elect Joe Biden.
Democrats accept greater stimulus checks
Democrats would have welcomed an earlier push for direct $ 2,000 payments from Trump, while Republicans tried to limit the size of the spending package. In fact, both Mayor Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., And Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., quickly backed a $ 2,000 check on Tuesday night. They supported this as a separate measure from the $ 900 billion rescue package.
They still want the president to sign this bill. Before Trump changed his tone, his own Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, signed the $ 600 payments. Republican congressional leaders did not do the initial verification as part of the latest round of negotiations.
House Democrats intend to approve $ 2,000 payments by unanimous consent during a pro forma session on Thursday. Any representative who decides to return to Capitol on Christmas Eve can block his ticket. The Senate held by the Republican Party may not approve the measure, even if the House approves it.
“If the president really wants to join us in payments of $ 2,000, he must appeal [House Minority] Leader [Kevin] McCarthy agrees with our request for unanimous consent, “Pelosi wrote to House Democrats on Wednesday.
She added later: “The whole country knows that it is urgent for the president to sign this bill, both to provide relief from the coronavirus and to keep the government open.”
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s office has not yet responded to Trump’s gambit. However, at least one member of the Kentucky Republican bench supported Trump’s push for $ 2,000 payments.
Senator Lindsey Graham, RS.C., tweeted on Wednesday that he would support the provision along with a measure supported by conservatives to rule out legal liability for internet platforms.
“Let’s vote,” he said.
Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Joined Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., To push for $ 1,200 direct payments on the relief bill later this year. Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., Blocked both lawmakers’ attempts to approve checks.
Sanders and other progressives embraced Trump’s new call for higher direct payments. On Tuesday night, the Vermont senator – who supported a proposed $ 2,000 monthly payment at the start of the pandemic – asked Trump to “get Mitch McConnell and his Republican friends to stop opposing” a bigger check.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., noted that she and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Have already written a legislative amendment for payments of $ 2,000.
Despite their support for greater checks, some Democrats still questioned Trump’s motives for pressuring them now, after being left out of legislative negotiations.
“Trump had no interest in the negotiations. None. It was his own party that insisted that the checks be $ 600,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Tweeted on Wednesday.
“If you think he cares about the size of the checks, I have a bridge to sell him. All of this is a middle finger for America on its way out the door,” he continued.
Sign up for CNBC on YouTube.