- President Donald Trump on Tuesday criticised the COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress.
- In a video, he conflated the $US900 package with another measure funding the federal government, criticising the inclusion of foreign aid.
- The outgoing president also criticised the $US600 stimulus checks as insufficient, asking Congress to increase the amount to $US2,000.
- It is unclear if Trump would veto an unamended stimulus package. A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
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President Donald Trump is belatedly criticising the COVID-19 stimulus package that the White House earlier suggested he would support, and suggested he wouldn’t sign it right away without major changes by Congress.
In a video tweeted Tuesday night, the lame-duck president conflated the $US900 billion coronavirus relief measure with a separate $US1.4 trillion omnibus measure it was merged with to keep the federal government funded into next year.
Much of the president’s ire was trained on foreign aid measures which actually formed part of the government spending bill, and not the negotiated emergency relief package. The legislation passed both chambers of Congress with broad bipartisan support on Monday evening, which could pave the way for a veto override if Trump holds firm.
Trump did not say whether or not he would actually veto the measure if it is not altered.
He blamed Democrats alone for a months-long impasse â€” but the Democratic-controlled House approved two stimulus packages that stalled due to Republican opposition in the Senate. The president himself called off negotiations in a pre-election tweet in early October and tried to restarting them only hours later.
Trump also criticised the $US600 payments approved by Congress as insufficient. That amount, though, was introduced by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, The Washington Post reported.
“It really is a disgrace,” he said, adding that he would be “asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $US600 to $US2,000 dollars.”
Republican lawmakers sought to keep the overall price tag of the legislation below $US1 trillion, and expanding the cash amount of checks would swell the cost of the rescue package. Ernie Tedeschi, an economist and former Treasury Department official during the Obama administration, estimated adding $US2,000 checks per adult would increase its price tag by $US370 billion.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi immediately accepted the offer, first proposed by progressive Democrats in her caucus.
“Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks,” Pelosi said on Twitter. “At last, the President has agreed to $US2,000 â€” Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!”
The latest $US900 billion rescue package was forged in negotiations among Congressional leaders that saw virtually no input from Trump. It includes enhanced unemployment insurance, small business aid, and vaccine distribution funds among other measures. Direct payments were added after a push from Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.
Congress and Trump authorised a round of $US1,200 direct payments for roughly 100 million American taxpayers as part of an earlier pandemic aid package. The president appeared to demonstrate little concern to approve more relief during a round of negotiations that eventually faltered in the summer.
But he repeatedly called for stimulus checks and a large relief deal in the runup to the election. His interest in the measure grew muted after his loss to President-elect Joe Biden.
Shortly after the emergency spending deal was announced, a White House spokesperson had suggested Trump would sign the measure as it stood. “We look forward to Congress sending a bill to his desk imminently for signature,” Ben Williamson told reporters on Sunday.
A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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