Trump takes aim at Covid stimulus bill, raising specter of veto

Trump takes aim at Covid stimulus bill, raising specter of vetoDecember 23, 2020

President Donald Trump on Tuesday blasted the $900 billion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress, calling it a “disgrace” and asking for amendments to the bill to increase stimulus payments to Americans.

While Trump did not directly threaten to veto the bill, his message raised the possibility that he might do so.

In a video tweeted by the president Tuesday evening, Trump delivered a four-minute speech listing his many grievances with the bill — which would send much-needed aid to Americans struggling amid the pandemic. Trump specifically criticized the relief package for including “wasteful spending” on issues unrelated to Covid-19, only providing $600 to individuals and families, and not giving enough emergency aid to small businesses.

“For example, among the more than 5,000 pages in this bill, which nobody in Congress has read because of its length and complexity, it’s called the Covid relief bill, but it has almost nothing to do with Covid,” Trump said.

The stimulus package finally passed Monday night following months of bipartisan bickering over the measure. It includes $1.4 trillion to fund the government through next September and passed both chambers with overwhelming bipartisan majorities. (If the legislation were to be vetoed, the government could shut down next week.)

Trump said the package provides too much funding to foreign countries and should include more for American families and small businesses. He asked that Congress amend the bill to increase the $600 stimulus payments going to individuals and families to $2,000, or $4,000 for couples.

“Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests, while sending the bare minimum to the American people who need it,” he said.

House Democrats quickly capitalized on Trump’s demand for $2,000 checks, announcing plans Tuesday night to try to pass a bill later this week doing just that.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to the president’s tweet Tuesday by calling out Republicans for refusing to say what amount Trump had wanted for the stimulus checks.

“Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks. At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!” Pelosi said in a tweet.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed a similar sentiment Tuesday night, taking aim at Republicans for previously blocking $2,000 stimulus checks proposed by Democrats.

“Trump needs to sign the bill to help people and keep the government open and we’re glad to pass more aid Americans need,” Schumer said in a tweet. “Maybe Trump can finally make himself useful and get Republicans not to block it again.”

Democrats will offer the bill during the House’s pro forma session on Christmas Eve. They will seek unanimous consent to pass the proposal — forcing a Republican to show up and object in person to stop it.

It’s unclear what the exact language of the bill would be but Republicans are expected to object, putting them at odds with the president.

Trump ended the speech by suggesting that his administration might be the next administration, despite President-elect Joe Biden’s win over Trump in the November election. He asked that Congress send him a suitable stimulus bill, or else the next administration will have to provide one, which he said will “maybe” be his.

“I am also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items of this legislation and to send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a Covid relief package, and maybe that administration will be me. And we’ll get it done,” Trump said.

Until his remarks Tuesday, Trump had been expected to sign the measure into law, which would allow at least some of the emergency aid to flow quickly. Even if Trump were to veto the bill, Congress passed the mammoth measure with enough votes in both the House and Senate to override that veto.

Heather Caygle contributed to this report.

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