Trump signs a pandemic relief bill.
WASHINGTON — President Trump abruptly signed a measure on Sunday providing $900 billion in pandemic aid and funding the government through September, ending last-minute turmoil over a possible government shutdown and an economic lifeline for millions of Americans.
The signing was a sudden reversal for the president, who last week appeared poised to derail the bill. But the move came after two critical unemployment programs lapsed, guaranteeing a delay in benefits for millions of unemployed people.
His last-minute resistance last week to signing the $2.3 trillion package caught lawmakers and White House officials by surprise. It raised fears that such a delay would exacerbate the economic toll of the pandemic.
The aid bill includes a revival of expanded and extended unemployment benefits, billions of dollars to help states with vaccine distribution, a replenished small-business loan program and relief money for airlines. It was passed along with a spending measure to keep the government funded for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Last week, about 24 hours after Congress overwhelmingly approved the measure, Mr. Trump emerged in a surprise video from the White House and called for direct payments to be more than tripled to $2,000 per adult. Hinting that he might veto the legislation, the president also lashed out at provisions in the funding bill that provided foreign aid.
Earlier, lawmakers criticized Mr. Trump for his refusal to sign the bill.
“None of us totally liked the bill — it’s the nature of legislating, you’re not going to end up with anything perfect — but we passed it because this was the agreed-upon number,” Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union. “I don’t understand what’s being done, why, unless it’s just to create chaos and show power and be upset because you lost the election. Otherwise I don’t understand it because this just has to get done.”
Multiple lawmakers, including Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, said that Mr. Trump should not delay signing the legislation and instead approve a separate bill providing for the $2,000 checks.
“What the president is doing right now is unbelievably cruel,” Mr. Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Given the terrible economic crisis facing this country, yes, we do need to get $2,000 out to every working-class individual in this country, $500 for their kid. But you can’t diddle around with the bill.”
Members of the bipartisan group that helped break the logjam over a stimulus deal issued a statement pressing Mr. Trump to either sign or veto the bill, and “allow those in favor to act before it is too late.”
Two governors also said that the time for negotiations had passed. On “State of the Union,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, a Democrat, said that she had long supported stimulus checks of $2,000, but that it was too late in the process to be making those kinds of requests.
“Sign the bill, get it done, and then if the president wants to push for more, let’s get that done too,” said Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican who also appeared on the show.
Another governor, Jay Inslee of Washington, said that Mr. Trump “has chosen to hold the entire relief package hostage.” Mr. Inslee, a Democrat, announced on Sunday that the state would provide $54 million in funding for almost 100,000 people set to lose unemployment assistance benefits.
Though they harshly criticized Mr. Trump, two progressive representatives-elect joined the president’s call for greater direct payments. On “State of the Union,” Jamaal Bowman, Democrat of New York, claimed that the president was “posturing to make himself, to bring himself back as the hero of the American people” after his defeat in November. But like Mr. Trump, he said Americans needed more relief.
“It needs to at least be $2,000, so he needs to talk to his Republican buddies and say ‘give the people the money,’” said Cori Bush, Democrat of Missouri, who also called the $600 figure a “slap in the face to people who are suffering.”
Democrats, who have long advocated increasing the amount of financial relief distributed across the country, plan to hold a vote on Monday to approve a stand-alone bill that would increase the payments to $2,000. It is unclear whether that legislation will stand a chance in the Senate, where Republicans have long been resistant to spending more than $1 trillion on pandemic relief.
Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, said that he would oppose such a measure and urged the president to sign the bill, adding that “time is running out.”
“I understand he wants to be remembered for advocating for big checks,” Mr. Toomey said on “Fox News Sunday.” “But the danger is he’ll be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior if he allows this to expire.”
Source: Read Full Article