Democrats in the U.S. Congress on Monday will try to push through expanded US$2,000 pandemic relief payments for Americans after President Donald Trump backed down from a fight with lawmakers that could have shut down the federal government.
In a sudden reversal late on Sunday, Trump signed into law a $2.3 trillion pandemic aid and spending package, restoring unemployment benefits to millions of Americans and providing funds to keep government agencies running.
Trump, who leaves office on Jan. 20 after losing November’s election to President-elect Joe Biden, retreated from his threat to block the bill, which was approved by Congress last week, after he came under pressure from lawmakers on both sides.
The Republican president, who golfed on Sunday and remained out of public view even as a government crisis loomed, had last week called the bill a “disgrace” and demanded Congress change it to increase the size of stimulus checks for struggling Americans from $600 to $2,000 while also cutting some other spending.
It was not immediately clear why Trump, who has refused to concede defeat to Biden, changed his mind on the stimulus package. His surprise, last-minute resistance had threatened to inject further chaos into the final stretch of his presidency.
Despite that, Democratic lawmakers who have a majority in the House of Representatives and have long wanted $2,000 relief checks, hope to use a rare point of agreement with Trump to advance the proposal – or at least put Republicans on record against it – in a vote on Monday.
Many of Trump’s fellow Republicans oppose the higher payments, and Trump may not have the influence to budge them. The issue appears unlikely to gain traction in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Many economists agree the financial aid in the bill should be bigger to get the economy moving again but say that immediate support for Americans hit by coronavirus lockdowns is still urgently needed.
After signing the bill behind closed doors at his beachside club in Florida, Trump sought to put the best face on his climb-down, saying he was signing it with “a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed.”
“Much more money is coming,” he insisted in a statement, though he provided nothing to back this promise.
With less than a month left in office, Trump is unlikely to get his fellow Republicans to back the extra money for individuals or persuade Democrats to accept spending cuts he says he wants elsewhere in the spending bill, particularly in foreign aid.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
News source: Reuters