A MONTH before he’s set to step down, President Donald Trump once again is putting party loyalty to the test as he demands amendments to the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill that Congress passed earlier this week.
Late on Tuesday, Dec. 22, Trump argued in a video posted to Twitter that the $600 stimulus check promised to individual taxpayers is too low, urging Congress to thin down the bill to focus more on the economic distress that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on individuals, families and small businesses.
“I’m asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 per couple,” the president said. “I’m also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items in this legislation or to send me a suitable bill.”
Though Trump didn’t explicitly state that he’s poised to veto the bill, he criticized Congress for taking too long for a follow up to the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was passed in March.
“A few months ago, Congress started negotiations on a new package to get urgently needed help to the American people — it’s taken forever,” Trump remarked. “However, the bill they are now planning to send back to my desk is much different than anticipated. It really is a disgrace.”
Previously, House Democrats have pushed for $2,000 relief checks for millions of Americans, an $800 increase from the previous relief check issued via the CARES Act in March.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — one of the four main members of Congress at the helm of the COVID-19 relief bill — appeared to respond favorably to Trump’s insistence of the $2,000 check, saying in a tweet, “At last the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the [House] Floor this week by unanimous consent.
Let’s do it!”
But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer stressed that “Trump needs to sign the bill to help people and keep the government open.” (If no spending bill is passed by Monday, Dec. 28, the government will shut down.)
The Republican faction of Congress has repeatedly resisted $2,000 direct payments, arguing that it would be too costly, but they have not responded to the president’s demands on amending the bill.
According to aides on Capitol Hill, there’s currently no clear plan to acquiesce to the president’s requests, but both parties hope that Trump will not veto the bill.
As previously reported in the Asian Journal, the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill that easily passed in both chambers of Congress promises, among other things, a $600 stimulus check and an extension of unemployment benefits. It would also bring about a new round of subsidies for small businesses, schools and renters facing eviction.
The bill was widely criticized for its lengthy stipulations, including hundreds of billions of dollars in funding toward tax breaks to niche industries, defense programs (including $500 billion toward Israeli defense systems) and seemingly arbitrary allocations, like supporting the Tibetan Buddhist faith community’s role in recognizing the “reincarnation” of “any future Dalai Lamas.”