President Donald Trump on Sunday signed a $ 900 billion pandemic relief package that ended days of drama over his refusal to accept the two-party deal that will provide cash to businesses and individuals and prevent a federal government shutdown .
The massive bill includes $ 1.4 billion to fund government agencies through September and includes other priorities at the end of the session, such as money for cash-starved transit systems and an increase in food stamp benefits.
Trump announced the signing Sunday night in a statement expressing his frustrations with the COVID-19 relief because he included only $ 600 checks with most Americans instead of the $ 2,000 his fellow Republicans rejected. He also complained about what he saw as unnecessary spending by the government in general. But Trump’s eleventh-hour objections have caused unrest because lawmakers thought he was supporting the bill, which has been negotiated with White House input for months.
“I will sign the Omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes it clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed,” Trump said in the statement.
While the president insisted that he send a new version of the Congress to Congress with items that had to be removed during the recall process, these are only proposals to Congress. The bill, as signed, will not necessarily be changed.
Legislators now have room to breathe to continue debating whether the aid should be as large as the president demanded. The Democratic-led House supports the larger checks and will vote on the issue on Monday, but it is expected to be ignored by the Republican-held Senate, where spending is met.
Republicans and Democrats quickly welcomed Trump’s decision to sign the bill.
“The compromise law is not perfect, but it will do an enormous amount of good for struggling Kentuckians and Americans across the country who now need help,” Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said. “I thank the president for signing this legal aid.”
Democrats promise more help will come once President Joe Biden takes office, but Republicans point to a wait-and-see approach.
In light of the growing economic hardship, the spread of disease and a looming closure, lawmakers on Sunday called on Trump to sign the legislation immediately and then follow up Congress with additional assistance. Apart from unemployment benefits and emergency loans to families, money for the distribution of vaccines, businesses, cash-hungry public transport systems and more is at stake. Protection against evictions also hangs in the balance.
“What the president is currently doing is incredibly cruel,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. “So many people are hurting. … It’s really insane and this president must finally … do the right thing for the American people and stop worrying about his ego. ‘
Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey said he understands that Trump “wants to be remembered for advocating for big checks, but the danger is that he will be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior if he lets it lapse.”
Toomey added: “I think it’s the best thing to do, as I said, to sign it and then sue for subsequent legislation.”
The same point was repeated by the Government of Maryland, Larry Hogan, a Republican who criticized Trump’s pandemic response and his efforts to undo the election results. “I just gave up guessing what he would do next,” he said.
Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger said there was too much at stake for Trump to “play this old switcheroo game.”
“I do not understand the point,” he said. “I do not understand what is being done there, unless it’s just creating chaos and showing power and being upset because you lost the election.”
Washington has cracked since Trump turned on the deal. Fingers pointed to administration officials, including Finance Minister Steven Mnuchin, as lawmakers tried to understand whether they were misled about Trump’s position.
“To stay in the fray now, after the president’s own person has negotiated something the president does not want, is just that – it’s amazing,” Kinzinger said.
Kinzinger spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union,” and Hogan and Sanders on ABC’s “This Week.”
You enable MPR news. Individual donations lie behind the clarity in our reporters’ reporting, stories that connect us, and conversations that offer perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.
Donate today. A gift of $ 17 makes a difference.