Benefits Expire as Trump Does Not Sign Pandemic Aid Bill
U.S. President Donald Trump did not sign a critical pandemic relief and government funding package before midnight, allowing increased unemployment benefits and eviction protections to expire at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.
Trump had sharply criticized the legislation earlier this week and indicated Saturday his continued objections to it.
Trump tweeted early Saturday, “I simply want to get our great people $2000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill. Also, stop the billions of dollars in ‘pork’.”
The larger checks have been seen as a rebuke to members of his own Republican party, which had resisted Democratic efforts to negotiate larger payments.
Fourteen million Americans will lose unemployment benefits, according to Labor Department data.
President-elect Joe Biden called on Trump to sign the bill.
“This abdication of responsibility has devastating consequences. … This bill is critical. It needs to be signed into law now,” Biden, who is spending the holiday in his home state of Delaware, said in a statement.
The president is spending the holiday at his Florida resort as Democrats and Republicans wait to see whether he will sign the $2.3 trillion spending legislation, which includes $892 billion for coronavirus relief. The bill has been flown from Washington to his Mar-a-Lago club to be available if he decides to sign it into law.
Trump has not specifically threatened to veto the bill, but he surprised lawmakers in both parties by calling it a “disgrace” after it had been passed in the House and Senate, capping months of negotiations.
A partial federal government shutdown also would begin early Tuesday if Trump does not sign the bill. Congress is planning to return to work Monday, interrupting its usual Christmas recess, and could take up a stopgap measure to extend government funding for a few days or weeks while the impasse is resolved.
House members are also scheduled to vote Monday to override Trump’s veto of a $740 billion bill authorizing the country’s defense programs. If the House vote passes, the Senate could vote on the measure as early as Tuesday. It requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers to override a presidential veto.
Trump has criticized the defense bill on several fronts, arguing without explanation that the bill benefits China, and has demanded the removal of language that allows for the renaming of military bases that honor Confederate leaders. He has also demanded the addition of a provision making it easier to sue social media companies over content posted by their users.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s veto “an act of staggering recklessness that harms our troops.”
However, Pelosi has embraced Trump’s call for $2,000 direct payments to all Americans below a specified income level, and on Thursday used a maneuver to force Republicans to defy Trump by blocking the increase.
Pelosi has announced plans to force another vote on the issue Monday. It is liable to be passed in the House, where Democrats have a majority, but unlikely to progress in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The White House declined to share details of the president’s schedule during his Christmas holiday. It said only: “During the holiday season, President Trump will continue to work tirelessly for the American people. His schedule includes many meetings and calls.”
Nevertheless, Trump was photographed playing golf at his Florida course near Mar-a-Lago both Thursday and Friday. Reports say he was joined on the course Christmas Day by his close ally, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.
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