Trump spent Christmas pouting and golfing while sitting on a $1 trillion coronavirus relief package, and as a result, 14 million people will temporarily lose their unemployment insurance. This narrowly averted a government shutdown, which would have taken effect Monday night.
Despite assurances from the White House that he would sign it, the president had suddenly threatened Tuesday to veto the bill, which his administration had negotiated with Congress for weeks under his direction. Trump said he no longer supported it because he decided he wanted direct payments to be $2,000 as opposed to the $600 written in the legislation.
Announcing his intent to sign the bill, Trump said on Sunday night, “I will sign the omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed. I will send back to Congress a redlined version, item by item, accompanied by the formal rescission request to Congress insisting that those funds be removed from the bill.”
House Democrats gave a half-hearted attempt to appease Trump’s concerns by offering a bill that would increase payments to $2,000 as the president wanted, but House Republicans blocked it.
In addition to direct payments, the bill also includes funds for desperately needed unemployment and food assistance as millions of Americans suffer from the economic consequences of the Covid-19 virus and the government’s inadequate attempts to stop it from killing hundreds of thousands. But supplemental unemployment insurance and stimulus checks are at half the level of the CARES package passed in March. And because of Trump’s delay, millions of Americans will miss a week’s worth of federal benefits.
Frustrated with Trump’s about-face, Republican lawmakers appeared on Sunday morning news shows to criticize the president for his inaction on the bill.
“I understand he wants to be remembered for advocating for big checks, but the danger is he’ll be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior if he allows this to expire,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said on Fox News Sunday. “You don’t get everything you want, even if you’re the president of the United States.”