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Trump Signs Economic Stimulus Bill, Days After Criticizing It As Insufficient

  • President Donald Trump approves a $2.3 trillion package that includes a $900 billion stimulus package as well as appropriations to fund the government through September
  • Action comes just days after Trump criticized the legislation as providing insufficient relief as well as wasteful spending
  • Key components of the stimulus includes $600 direct payments, a new round of PPP funding, and supplemental unemployment benefits

Backing down from a threat that he might not approve a $900 billion stimulus package unless Congress made significant modifications, President Donald Trump approved the legislation on Sunday evening.

Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said Trump has approved the bipartisan measure as well as an appropriations bill that funds the federal government through the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2021. The stimulus and appropriations bills were paired in a package totaling approximately $2.3 trillion.

“The President is signing this bill to restore unemployment benefits, stop evictions, provide rental assistance, add money for PPP, return our airline workers back to work, add substantially more money for vaccine distribution, and much more,” Deere said.

The action marks an abrupt reversal from Trump’s stance last week, when he announced that he was sending the bill back to Congress for revision. In a video posted to Twitter, Trump criticized the $600 direct payments to adults and minor dependents as insufficient, asking that they be increased to $2,000 per adult or $4,000 per couple. Trump also called for more aid to small businesses, citing restaurants in particular, as well as the elimination of several items in the appropriations bill which he described as wasteful.

Trump’s action caught Washington off-guard, as the White House had often signaled that he would sign any stimulus bill that made it through the divided Congress. Partisan disagreements over issues such as liability protections for businesses and support for state and local governments torpedoed several attempts to reach a consensus on new relief after several key provisions of the CARES Act expired over the summer. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been active in these negotiations, and pitched the $600 direct payments after an initial $908 billion bipartisan proposal omitted any stimulus checks.

The demand for higher direct payments pitted Trump against his own party, as Democrats embraced the suggestion but Republicans largely opposed it out of concerns for increasing the deficit. House Democrats attempted to win unanimous consent for boosting the stimulus on Christmas Eve, though this was quickly blocked by the GOP; in a similar turn of events, Republicans attempted to revisit the foreign aid section of the appropriations bill but were blocked by Democrats.

In addition to the $600 direct payments, key parts of the stimulus include $284 billion to restart the Paycheck Protection Program with a focus on hard-hit small businesses and an 11-week extension of $300-a-week supplemental unemployment benefits. Other components include $15 billion to support airlines, another $15 billion in grants for theaters and cultural institutions, and funding for areas such as education and COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

Trump’s approval of the stimulus comes a day after the expiration of two emergency federal unemployment programs set up to support those who have exhausted their state benefits as well as gig workers, the self-employed, and others who don’t traditionally qualify for state benefits. Approximately 14 million people will have their benefits delayed by one week.

Trump reiterated his support for $2,000 stimulus checks, as well as $600 per dependent child, and said the Senate will start the process to vote on this issue. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell congratulated Trump for signing the legislation, but did not commit to revisiting the amount allocated to direct payments.

The White House also announced that it is sending a redlined version of the package to Congress, with a formal rescission request asking that the highlighted items be removed.

President-elect Joe Biden has supported a bill to provide short-term stimulus, and has promised to push another round of support after he takes office on Jan. 20. The success of any new stimulus could hinge on control of the Senate, which won’t be determined until two runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5.

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