Trump Slams COVID Relief Package, Calls On Congress To Increase Direct Payments

Trump Slams COVID Relief Package, Calls On Congress To Increase Direct Payments

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
|
December 22, 2020

President Trump on Tuesday evening expressed disapproval on the massive $2.3 trillion combined COVID relief and government spending bill Congress just passed, blasting the “wasteful spending” package as a “disgrace,” while issuing a pre-Christmas demand for Congress to amend the bill that will include an increase of the $600 direct payment to individuals to $2000.

“A few months ago, Congress started negotiations on a new package to get urgently needed help to the American people. It’s taken forever,” Trump said in the Twitter video Tuesday evening. “However, the bill they are now planning to send back to my desk is much different than anticipated. It really is a disgrace.”

“I’m asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2000 or $4000 per couple,” Trump added. 

Although he did not explicitly threaten to veto the package, Trump hinted he might just let the next administration deal with the package if Congress “immediately” didn’t amend the legislation.

“I’m also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items in this legislation or to send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package, and maybe that administration will be me, and we will get it done.”

Trump in the four-minute video railed against a slew of “wasteful spending” provisions that “has almost nothing to do with COVID” that were attached in the mammoth 5,593-page bill. 

“Among the more than 5,000 pages in this bill, which nobody in Congress has read because of its length and complexity, it’s called the COVID Relief Bill, but it has almost nothing to do with COVID,” Trump said while listing off the pork items included in the spending bill.

Nearly 3,000 pages, part of the omnibus appropriations package contains peculiar items unrelated to government funding or pandemic relief efforts, including billions directed to foreign aid, establishing two new museums near the National Mall, $10 million for “gender programs” in Pakistan,  and aid to the Kennedy Center as well as the Smithsonian museums, despite the fact that both facilities have been closed since March.

“Despite all of this wasteful spending and much more, the $900 billion package provides hardworking taxpayers with only $600 each in relief payments, and not enough money is given to small businesses. And in particular, restaurants, whose owners have suffered so grievously. They were only given a deduction for others to use in business,” Trump said.

He added, “Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists, and special interests while sending the bare minimum to the American people.”

The Senate voted 92-6 to approve the measure Monday evening after the House voted 359-53 in favor.

Democrats cheered the president’s demand message, with many offering rare support in his calls to increase individual stimulus payment.

“Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks. At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wrote on Twitter.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called on Trump to make his wish a reality, urging the president to intervene to prevent GOP lawmakers from blocking the passage.

“We spent months trying to secure $2000 checks but Republicans blocked it. Trump needs to sign the bill to help people and keep the government open and we’re glad to pass more aid Americans need. Maybe Trump can finally make himself useful and get Republicans not to block it again,” Schumer tweeted.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said she and fellow Squad member, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) had already written the $2,000 amendment and it was “ready to go.”

“Let’s do it. Rashida Tlaib and I already co-wrote the COVID amendment for $2,000 checks, so it’s ready to go,” the progressive firebrand tweeted. “Glad to see the President is willing to support our legislation. We can pass $2k checks this week if the Senate GOP agrees to stand down.”

Among Republicans, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) who supported providing an increase of direct financial payouts tag-teamed with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) last week in introducing a standalone bill for a second round of $1,200 direct payment. However, the standalone bill needed only one objection, with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) being the Senator in preventing the bill from passing.

“@realDonaldTrump is right,” Hawley tweeted Tuesday night. “Workers deserve much more than $600, as I have repeatedly said & fought for. And there’s absolutely plenty of $$ to do it – look at what Congress threw away on corporate giveaways & foreign buyouts. Let’s get it done.”

According to a House Democrat aid, Pelosi and House Democrats are planning to bring a vote by unanimous consent on Thursday to amend the bill to include the increase in the size of direct payment proposal after Trump mentioned the move.

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Mona Salama

Mona Salama