President Donald Trump on Friday continued to push raising the amount of direct payments the massive Covid stimulus package should provide to Americans, but gave no indication on whether he would sign or veto the existing bill.
“Made many calls and had meetings at Trump International in Palm Beach, Florida. Why would politicians not want to give people $2000, rather than only $600? It wasn’t their fault, it was China. Give our people the money!” Trump tweeted.
The Covid aid legislation was sent overnight from Washigton and arrived at Trumps’ Mar-a-Lago resort in West Palm Beach, Florida, where the president is spending the holidays.
Lawmakers on Friday were still waiting to see how Trump would proceed with the year-end spending and $900 billion Covid-19 relief package that passed both chambers of Congress earlier this week. That bill included a new round of $600 direct payments and help for jobless Americans, families and businesses struggling in the pandemic.
Trump has condemned the bill, saying it includes too many provisions that have nothing to do with the pandemic and that it is too stingy with payments to average Americans.
Following Trump’s initial comments Tuesday about wanting to raise the payment amount per individual to $2,000, House Democrats on Thursday rushed to schedule a vote to increase the payments as the president demanded. But Republicans killed the bill, throwing into further doubt the future of any imminent financial relief for millions of struggling Americans.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that House Democrats would vote Monday on a standalone bill that would provide direct payments to Americans of $2,000 a person.
Trump’s comments Tuesday sent Washington spiraling into chaos after lawmakers had spent months hashing out a deal on the largest piece of legislation of the year, and it left many frustrated that Trump had waited so long to voice his concerns after largely having sat out the negotiation process.
Before Trump spoke, all signs and expectations had been that he intended to sign the measure as soon as it landed on his desk. White House aides also said as much.
A top Senate Republican urged Trump on Thursday to sign the bill, while adding that he did not support raising the payments.
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“The best way out of this is for the president to sign the bill, and I still hope that’s what he decides to do,” Roy Blunt of Missouri, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, told reporters.
Asked whether a bill to increase direct payment checks from $600 to $2,000 would get the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate, Blunt said, “It would not.”
The legislation already passed by Congress includes two bills that were combined: One was the Covid-19 relief and stimulus bill, and the other was a large spending bill to fund the government through September. If the spending bill is not enacted, the government will have to start shutting down beginning Tuesday.
Adam Edelman is a political reporter for NBC News.