Donald Trump signed the Covid-19 relief and spending bill after days of delays, preventing a government shutdown in the middle of a pandemic.
The move came Sunday night after senior Republicans urged him to act following his refusal to sign the bill, a decision that meant millions of Americans lost unemployment assistance.
Trump caught members on both sides by surprise and disrupted months of negotiations when he demanded last week that the package, which has already been approved by the House and Senate by wide margins and is believed to be supported by Trump, be revised to include larger aid checks and reduced expenses.
But on Sunday night Trump issued a statement that he had signed the bill, saying it was his “responsibility to protect the people of our country from the devastation and economic hardship” caused by the coronavirus.
“As President, I have told Congress that I want much less spending and more money for the American people in the form of checks for $ 2,000 per adult and $ 600 per child.
“I will sign the omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes it clear to Congress that waste items must be removed. I will send back to Congress a version with red lines, article by article, accompanied by the formal request for rescission to Congress insisting that those funds be removed from the bill.
“I am signing this bill to restore unemployment benefits, stop evictions, provide rental assistance, add money for PPP, return our airline workers to work, add substantially more money for vaccine distribution, and much more. plus”.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell welcomed the measure.
I applaud the President’s decision to put billions of dollars of crucial COVID-19 relief through the door and into the hands of American families. I am pleased that the American people are receiving this much-needed assistance as our nation continues to fight this pandemic. My full statement: pic.twitter.com/YSPYsPu2ct
– Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) December 28, 2020
Faced with mounting economic difficulties and the spread of disease, lawmakers urged Trump on Sunday to sign the legislation immediately and then have Congress give him additional help. In addition to unemployment benefits and support payments to families, money is at stake for vaccine distribution, cash-hungry businesses and public transportation systems. Protections against evictions are also at stake.
“What the president is doing right now is incredibly cruel,” said Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. “So many people are hurting … It’s really crazy and this president has to finally … do the right thing for the American people and stop caring about his ego.”
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said he understood that Trump “wants to be remembered for advocating for big checks, but the danger is that he will be remembered for chaos, misery and erratic behavior if he allows this to expire.”
Toomey added: “So I think the best thing to do, as I said, is to sign this and then defend the subsequent legislation.”
The same point was echoed by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who is criticized for Trump’s pandemic response and his efforts to undo the election results. “I just stopped guessing what to do next,” he said.
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said the stakes are too high for Trump to “play this old game of change.”
“I don’t get the point,” he said. “I don’t understand what is being done, why, unless it is just to create chaos and show power and be upset that you lost the election.”
Washington has been reeling since Trump approved the deal, without warning, after it garnered wide approval in both houses of Congress and after the White House assured Republican leaders that Trump would support it.
The bill has remained unsigned on his desk since Christmas Day, as the president, who was mostly silent during weeks of intense negotiations, spent the weekend at Trump International Golf Course in West Palm Beach.
Instead, he attacked the bill’s plan to provide $ 600 Covid-19 relief checks to most Americans, insisting it should be $ 2,000, and disagreed with the spending included in a bill. $ 1.4 trillion government funding bill to keep the federal government running through September.
And already, his opposition has had consequences, as two federal programs that provided unemployment assistance expired on Saturday.
Lauren Bauer of the Brookings Institution had calculated that at least 11 million people would lose aid immediately as a result of Trump not signing the legislation; Millions more would exhaust other unemployment benefits in a few weeks.
How and when people are affected by the lapse depends on the state they live in, the program they are based on, and when they applied for benefits.
In some states, people with regular unemployment insurance will continue to receive payments under a program that extends benefits when the unemployment rate crosses a certain threshold, said Andrew Stettner, unemployment insurance expert and senior fellow at the Century Foundation think tank. .
About 9.5 million people, however, were dependent on the pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that fully expired on Saturday. That program made unemployment insurance available to the self-employed, concert workers, and others who are not normally eligible. After receiving their last checks, those recipients will not be able to request further assistance, Stettner said.
Joe Biden, who won the November presidential election and will be sworn in as Trump’s successor on January 20, charged him with a “abdication of responsibility“In a statement Saturday.
Disputes over the aid bill come as the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen in the US, and medical experts join Biden in predicting that the darkest days are yet to come.
“It’s very possible that we will see a post-season increase, in the sense of Christmas, New Years,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s chief of infectious diseases, told CNN Sunday.
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