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Trump Asks Congress to Amend Stimulus Bill to Boost Direct Payments, Hinting He Won’t Sign Legislation

  • In video posted to Twitter, President Donald Trump criticizes bipartisan economic stimulus bill as “a disgrace” and asks Congress to amend it
  • Trump calls for $600 direct payments to be increased to $2,000, and for more aid to small businesses
  • Decision upends timetable on hoped-for relief, as the deadline approaches on several key relief measures

In a surprise decision announced Tuesday evening via Twitter, President Donald Trump denounced a bipartisan compromise on new economic stimulus and asked Congress to amend the legislation.

The $900 billion measure passed Monday includes $600 stimulus checks for Americans as well as minor dependents, $284 billion in renewed funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, and an 11-week extension of a $300 supplement to unemployment benefits. It passed by wide margins in both the House and Senate.

Trump began his message by accusing Democrats of blocking aid to households and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic “in an effort to advance their extreme left-wing agenda and influence the election.” He complained that the bill delivered to his desk was “much different than anticipated” and “really a disgrace.” He also said he did not think the bill delivered enough support to small businesses, citing restaurants in particular, and asked Congress to increase the “ridiculously low” $600 stimulus checks to $2,000 per person or $4,000 per couple – up from the $1,200 checks delivered under the CARES Act in the spring.

Trump also rattled off a list of appropriations in a separate $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill and $9.9 billion bill on water projects, which were packed with the stimulus bill, including funding for foreign governments and domestic recipients such as the Kennedy Center and Smithsonian. Trump’s announcement comes after calls by conservatives on Twitter for Trump to reject the bill, which often included an image listing many of the same appropriations cited by Trump and comparing them to the $600 payments.

Trump concluded his message by demanding that Congress eliminate the “wasteful and unnecessary items” in the bill before he will approve it. He said if Congress cannot deliver a satisfactory bill, economic stimulus will fall to the next administration, “and maybe that administration will be me.”

Trump has insisted that he won the presidential election in November, blaming his defeat on unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud. He has launched dozens of unsuccessful attempts to have the election results overturned in the court, and the Electoral College affirmed Joe Biden’s win last week.

The decision came as a surprise since Trump’s economic officials had supported the stimulus measure. Trump had not personally expressed his support, but was widely expected to sign the bill. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin helped negotiate the final legislation, including the addition of $600 direct payments not originally included in the proposal.

Trump has not been personally involved in stimulus negotiations since before Election Day. He reportedly complained to aides last week that the proposed stimulus payments were too low and that he wanted them increased to $1,200 or $2,000, but was urged to keep out of the process.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed with Trump’s call to boost direct payments, saying Republicans “repeatedly refused” to say what amount the President wanted for stimulus checks. “Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!” she declared on Twitter.

Trump stopped short of saying he would veto the bill. Although the stimulus passed with veto-proof majorities, a veto override could take weeks to accomplish. He could also choose not to sign the bill, allowing it to expire by pocket veto.

The action comes as approximately 12 million people could see their federal unemployment benefits expire on Dec. 26, and as a moratorium on evictions comes to an end after Dec. 31. In addition, the government is currently funded through a stopgap measure and would shut down if Trump does not approve a spending bill by midnight on Monday.

Congress has already left Washington for the Christmas holiday, and is not set to return until Tuesday.

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