The president called for an increase in crisis relief payments to the public from $600 to $2,000 per person
The U.S. government is again at risk of a partial shutdown as President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to reject a $2.3 trillion government spending bill that includes a coronavirus economic aid package.
The $892 billion crisis package was the result of long negotiations between Republicans and Democrats.
The bill also provides funding for the government through September 2021. If Trump blocks it, a significant portion of government agencies would be forced to suspend operations next week due to lack of funding.
On Tuesday night, Trump posted a video on social media demanding that the bill be revised to include $2,000 payments to every American. Currently, there are $600 per person payments provided.
According to a source close to the situation, aides to the president were surprised by his statement. The video also surprised Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who was involved in the negotiations and confirmed that the payments would be $600.
According to another source, Trump was outraged when Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week acknowledged Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.
Current federal funding will expire Monday unless Trump signs the bill. On Wednesday afternoon, he plans to leave for Florida for the Christmas break.
The Trump administration has been involved in drafting the bill, and the White House said Sunday that the president would sign it.
In his video, Trump also demanded that foreign aid, which is included in every annual budget, be removed from the bill.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House could vote to raise the payments Thursday if Republican Caucus Leader Kevin McCarthy agrees to do so.
“The whole country knows that the president needs to sign this bill into law urgently, both to help fight the coronavirus and to keep the government open. Let us pray!” – she wrote in a letter to other House Democrats.
McCarthy’s press office has not yet commented.
The president also raised objections to several other provisions in the law, including fish farming and funding for the Smithsonian Museums.
Trump has not said directly that he intends to veto the law. Perhaps he hopes Congress will simply make edits to the text of the document. The president will leave office on Jan. 20, when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.
The bill has received broad support from both parties in both the House and Senate. If necessary, there could be a reconsideration to override a presidential veto.
Trump also threatened to veto the $740 billion defense policy bill.
In that bill, the president was unhappy with, among other things, a provision to rename military bases named after Confederate generals. He also wanted the bill to remove liability protections for social media, which the president accuses of bias against conservatives.
The House of Representatives plans to return to work on Dec. 28 if Trump vetoes the defense bill. State funding expires on the same day.
Georgia will hold a runoff election for two Senate seats on Jan. 5 to determine which party will gain control of the chamber. Democrats have called on incumbent Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Leffler to say whether they share Trump’s position on the payments. Neither campaign office has yet commented.
Both bills passed by enough margin to override a presidential veto, but that would have embarrassed Republicans. Many of them opposed the $2,000 payout, so they would either have to challenge their party leader or change their position.
Democrats, on the other hand, support increasing the payments. Some of them welcomed the president’s response.
“Mr. President, sign the bill to keep the government opens! – Pelosi wrote on Twitter. – Call on McConnell and McCarthy to agree to the Democrats’ unanimous request for $2,000 in direct payments! It could be done by noon on Christmas Eve!”
“I totally agree with the idea of paying poor families $2,000 each. Democrats in the House and Senate are united on this issue,” Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted.
Congress will be dissolved at the end of the year, so the bill will be automatically vetoed in 10 days, even if Trump takes no action.