Trump signs pandemic relief and government funding, avoiding shutdown

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WASHINGTON – Putting his objections aside, President Donald Trump has signed a COVID-19 of more than $ 2 trillion and an annual federal spending program bringing relief to millions of Americans, even as Congress returns to face the White House on the remaining priorities in a rare end-of-session confrontation.

Trump appears to have accomplished little, if anything, since the days of drama over his refusal to accept the radical bipartisan deal. While the president’s demands for larger pandemic relief checks of $ 2,000 appear doomed, his push has offered a political opportunity for Democrats, who are backing larger allocations and forcing Trump’s Republican allies into a hard situation.

On Monday, the Democratic-led House is expected to vote to increase payments from $ 600 to $ 2,000, sending a new bill to the Senate. There, Republicans have a majority but oppose more spending and are likely to derail the effort.

The showdown offers more symbol than substance, and that shouldn’t alter the massive package Trump reluctantly signed on Sunday night in Florida, where he is spending the holidays. The $ 900 billion in COVID aid and $ 1.4 trillion to fund government agencies will provide much-needed liquidity to businesses and individuals and prevent a federal government shutdown that would otherwise have started on Tuesday, amid the health crisis public.

Along with additional unemployment benefits and family relief benefits, the package provides money for vaccine distribution, businesses, public transport systems and more. It also extends protections against evictions during a pandemic.

With Monday and Tuesday’s votes to overturn Trump’s veto on a sweeping defense bill, the action may be the latest stalemate in the final days of the president’s term as he imposes new demands and challenges them. presidential election results. The new Congress is to be sworn in on Sunday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Has grasped the rift between the president and his party, urging Trump to pressure his GOP allies in the Senate to pass the bill.

“The President must immediately call on Republicans in Congress to end their obstruction and join him and the Democrats in supporting our stand-alone legislation to increase direct payment checks to $ 2,000,” Pelosi said in a tweet. .

Trump’s sudden decision to sign the bill came as he faced escalating criticism from lawmakers on all sides over his last-minute demands. The bipartisan bill negotiated by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had already passed the House and Senate with wide margins. Lawmakers believed they had Trump’s blessing after months of negotiations with his administration.

The president’s categorical refusal to act, made public by an animated video he tweeted just before the Christmas break, has sparked chaos, an interruption in unemployment benefits for millions and the threat of a shutdown government in the event of a pandemic. It was another crisis of his own, resolved when he finally signed the bill.

In his statement about the signing, Trump reiterated his frustrations with the COVID-19 relief bill for providing only $ 600 checks to most Americans and complained that he considered unnecessary spending, especially on foreign aid – much of it coming from its own budget.

While the president has insisted that he will send Congress “an underlined version” with the spending items he wishes to remove, these are just suggestions to Congress. The bill, as signed, would not necessarily be amended.

For now, the administration can only start working on sending payments of $ 600.

Democrats, who have a majority in the House, “will reject any annulment” submitted by the president, said Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, chair of the Appropriations Committee.

But Trump nonetheless continued to try to turn his kicks into a victory, telling his allies he had won concessions by forcing the removal of what he dubbed “Christmas trees” from the Bill. expenses. A day after signing, he was back on the Florida golf course, where he is expected to move after President-elect Joe Biden was sworn in on January 20.

Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, a conservative who backed Trump’s extraordinary and futile challenge to the election results, was counted on Monday among opponents of a more generous relief plan and Trump’s call for higher payments.

“This is money we don’t have, we have to borrow to get it and we can’t afford to pay it back,” he said on Fox and Friends.

But Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York City said she was open to the idea of ​​$ 2,000 checks. “Many Americans are in dire need of relief,” she said on the show.

Overall, Republicans and Democrats were quick to praise Trump’s decision to sign the bill.

“The compromise bill is not perfect, but it will do tremendously good for Kentuckians and struggling Americans across the country who need help now,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch said. McConnell, R-Ky. “I thank the president for signing this relief into law.”

Others criticized Trump’s delay in turning the bill into law. In a tweet, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., Accused Trump of “playing Russian roulette with American lives.” A familiar and comfortable place for him.

Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said he would offer Trump’s proposal of $ 2,000 checks for a Senate vote – embarrassing Republicans.

“The House will pass a bill to give Americans checks for $ 2,000,” Schumer tweeted. “Then I will move its adoption in the Senate. He said no Democrats would oppose it. “Do the Republicans in the Senate?”

Democrats promise more help to come once Biden takes office, but Republicans are signaling a wait-and-see approach.

In the face of mounting economic hardship, the spread of disease and an impending shutdown, lawmakers spent Sunday urging Trump to sign the legislation immediately, then asking Congress to follow up with further help.

Colvin reported from West Palm Beach, Florida.

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