Trump Slams COVID-19 Relief Bill, Asks For Changes After Bitter Negotiations
Updated at 9:21 p.m. ET
President Trump is threatening to derail a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress on Monday after months of bitter negotiations.
In a video released on his Twitter feed Tuesday evening, Trump said he wants Congress to "send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package."
Trump said the bill was a "disgrace" and called the payments of up to $600 to qualifying individuals in the current bill "ridiculously low." He said he wants that boosted to $2,000 per individual and $4,000 for couples — despite the fact that it was Republicans who stood in the way of higher payments for months.
The relief package was passed as part of a bill to fund government operations for the rest of the fiscal year, though the president did earlier sign a stopgap measure that extends government funding until Monday.
Trump blasted money appropriated for foreign aid, environmental programs and cultural institutions, calling them "wasteful."
Trump did not expressly threaten to veto the legislation. It was passed by overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate with enough votes to potentially override a presidential veto if Trump were to carry out that option.
Trump's move throws a big wrench into what's been a hotly contentious process.
Democrats seized on Trump's call for higher payments. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said they'll bring the $2,000 direct payments to the floor Thursday for a vote by unanimous consent.
House Democrats have fought for months to provide relief to the American people, which Republicans rejected at every turn. Now that the President has agreed to direct payments of $2000, we will ask for unanimous consent to pass a bill this week to give Americans this assistance.— Steny Hoyer (@RepStenyHoyer) December 23, 2020
"Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks," Pelosi said. "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!"
Trump's comments also put leading Republicans in a box.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina responded on Twitter, calling the relief bill "imperfect," but saying that it "will save jobs and lives. The sooner the bill becomes law — the better."
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The #COVID19 package, while imperfect, will save jobs and lives. The sooner the bill becomes law - the better.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 23, 2020
It will allow millions of businesses to avoid bankruptcy, deliver vaccines even faster, help those unemployed and provide money for families who are struggling.