Trump Signs Massive Measure Funding Government, COVID Relief

December 28, 2020by Jill Colvin, Lisa Mascaro and Andrew Taylor, Associated Press
President Donald Trump's motorcade departs Trump International Golf Club, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump has signed a $900 billion pandemic relief package, ending days of drama over his refusal to accept the bipartisan deal that will deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and avert a federal government shutdown.

The massive bill includes $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies through September and contains other end-of-session priorities such as an increase in food stamp benefits.

The signing Sunday, at his private club in Florida came amid escalating criticism over his eleventh-hour demands for larger, $2,000 relief checks and scaled-back spending even though the bill had already passed the House and Senate by wide margins. The bill was passed with what lawmakers had thought was Trump’s blessing, and after months of negotiations with his administration.

His foot-dragging resulted in a lapse in unemployment benefits for millions struggling to make ends meet and threatened a government shutdown in the midst of a pandemic.. But signing the bill into law prevents another crisis of Trump’s own creation and ends a standoff with his own party during the final days of his administration.

It was unclear what, if anything, Trump accomplished with his delay, beyond angering all sides and empowering Democrats to continue their push for higher relief checks, which his own party opposes.

In his statement, Trump repeated his frustrations with the COVID-19 relief bill for providing only $600 checks to most Americans instead of the $2,000 that his fellow Republicans already rejected. He also complained about what he considered unnecessary spending by the government at large.

“I will sign the Omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed,” Trump said in the statement.

While the president insisted he would send Congress “a redlined version” with items to be removed under the rescission process, those are merely suggestions to Congress. The bill, as signed, would not necessarily be changed.

Democrats, who have the majority in the House, immediately vowed to prevent any cuts. Democrats “will reject any rescissions” submitted by the president, said Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. , in a statement.

Lawmakers now have breathing room to continue debating whether the relief checks should be as large as the president has demanded. The Democratic-led House supports the larger checks and is set to vote on the issue Monday, but it’s expected to be ignored by the Republican-held Senate where spending faces opposition. For now, the administration can only begin work sending out the $600 payments.

Republicans and Democrats swiftly welcomed Trump’s decision to sign the bill into law.

“The compromise bill is not perfect, but it will do an enormous amount of good for struggling Kentuckians and Americans across the country who need help now,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “I thank the President for signing this relief into law.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the signing “welcome news for the fourteen million Americans who just lost the lifeline of unemployment benefits on Christmas weekend, and for the millions more struggling to stay afloat during this historic pandemic and economic crisis.”

But others slammed Trump’s delay in turning the bill into law. In a tweet, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., accused Trump of having “played Russian roulette with American lives. A familiar and comfortable place for him.”

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he would offer Trump’s proposal for $2,000 checks for a vote in Senate — putting Republicans on the spot.

“The House will pass a bill to give Americans $2,000 checks. Then I will move to pass it in the Senate,” Schumer tweeted. “No Democrats will object. Will Senate Republicans?”

Democrats are promising more aid to come once President-elect Joe Biden takes office, but Republicans are signaling a wait-and-see approach.

Congress will push ahead Monday, with the House expected to vote to override Trump’s veto of an annual must-pass Defense bill, confronting the president on another big issue in the final days of the session. The Senate is expected to follow on Tuesday.

In the face of growing economic hardship, spreading disease and a looming shutdown, lawmakers spent Sunday urging Trump to sign the legislation immediately, then have Congress follow up with additional aid. Aside from unemployment benefits and relief payments to families, money for vaccine distribution, businesses and more was on the line. Protections against evictions also hung in the balance.

“What the president is doing right now is unbelievably cruel,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. “So many people are hurting. … It is really insane and this president has got to finally … do the right thing for the American people and stop worrying 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 he’ll be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior if he allows this to expire.”

Toomey added: “So I think the best thing to do, as I said, sign this and then make the case for subsequent legislation.”

The same point was echoed by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who’s criticized Trump’s pandemic response and his efforts to undo the election results. “I just gave up guessing what he might do next,” he said.

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said too much is at stake for Trump to “play this old switcheroo game.”

“I don’t get the point,” he said. “I don’t understand what’s being done, why, unless it’s just to create chaos and show power and be upset because you lost the election.”

Washington had been reeling since Trump turned on the deal. Fingers pointed at administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, as lawmakers tried to understand whether they were misled about Trump’s position.

“Now to be put in a lurch, after the president’s own person negotiated something that the president doesn’t want, it’s just — it’s surprising,” Kinzinger said.

Kinzinger spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union,” and Hogan and Sanders on ABC’s “This Week.”

___

Mascaro and Taylor reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Alexandra Olson in New York contributed to this report.

Economy

Pfizer Study Suggests Vaccine Works Against Virus Variant
Health
Pfizer Study Suggests Vaccine Works Against Virus Variant

New research suggests that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine can protect against a mutation found in two easier-to-spread variants of the coronavirus that erupted in Britain and South Africa. Those variants are causing global concern. They carry multiple mutations but share one in common that's believed to be... Read More

Governors Scramble to Speed Vaccine Effort After Slow Start
Health
Governors Scramble to Speed Vaccine Effort After Slow Start

New York’s governor threatened to fine hospitals if they don't use their allotment of COVID-19 vaccine fast enough. His South Carolina counterpart warned health care workers they have until Jan. 15 to get a shot or move to the back of the line. California’s governor wants... Read More

Pandemic Haunts New Year as Virus Growth Outpaces Vaccines
Economy
Pandemic Haunts New Year as Virus Growth Outpaces Vaccines

LONDON (AP) — Despite growing vaccine access, January is looking grim around the globe as the coronavirus resurges and reshapes itself from Britain to Japan to California, filling hospitals and threatening livelihoods anew as governments lock down businesses and race to find solutions. England headed back... Read More

Northam Commits Additional $20 Million to Rebuild VA Economic Recovery Fund
State News
Northam Commits Additional $20 Million to Rebuild VA Economic Recovery Fund
January 4, 2021
by Sean Trambley

RICHMOND, Va. – This week, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam allocated an additional $20 million in federal CARES Act funding to the Rebuild VA economic recovery fund to meet demand for the program and fulfill pending grant applications.  This new funding will bring the program total to... Read More

House Legislation Provides Rental Assistance to Families in Response to Recessions and Natural Disasters
Economy
House Legislation Provides Rental Assistance to Families in Response to Recessions and Natural Disasters
January 4, 2021
by Sean Trambley

WASHINGTON – This week, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., introduced the Crisis Housing Act establishing a new automatic housing assistance program to provide emergency rental assistance vouchers to households during natural disasters or economic recessions.  “When responding to an unforeseen disaster like a pandemic, hurricane, or economic... Read More

US Expected to Miss Goal of Vaccinating 20 Million Against COVID-19 by Year End
Health
US Expected to Miss Goal of Vaccinating 20 Million Against COVID-19 by Year End

The U.S. goal of getting initial COVID-19 vaccine doses to 20 million Americans by year’s end was looking like a long shot Tuesday. The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed initially promised to unleash a vast stockpile of 300 million vaccine doses by January but later slashed... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top