President Donald Trump threatened not to sign the $900 billion coronavirus relief package approved by Congress unless the direct payments in the bills are significantly increased, The Washington Post reports.
Trump said in a video that the $600 payments in the bill were “ridiculously low” and called for lawmakers to increase them to $2,000 while cutting what he called “wasteful spending and much more.”
Trump did not mention that the $600 payment idea came from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
“I am also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation, and 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,” Trump said.
The announcement surprised Trump’s top aides and sent stock futures tumbling.
The threat comes before numerous federal relief programs are set to expire next week.
Democrats back call:
Democratic leaders backed his call for bigger payments after Republicans refused to discuss bigger payments for months.
“Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Twitter. “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!”
The House is expected to vote on the measure on Thursday.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he backed the increased payments but warned that a delay could be devastating.
“We spent months trying to secure $2000 checks but Republicans blocked it,” Schumer wrote. “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.”
Threat could delay aid:
It’s highly doubtful negotiators will agree on a deal to get enough votes for the increased payments.
Any change would require unanimous support in the House and Senate, which means any lawmaker can block the move.
The $600 direct payments are expected to cost about $167 billion, while raising the payments to $2,000 per adult would increase the cost of the bill by $327 billion.
Meanwhile, the threat could delay a revival of federal unemployment benefits and other relief programs.
Many on both sides criticized Trump for staying out of stimulus talks until Congress actually passed a bill.
“This is what happens with a president who places more trust in conservative fever swamp Twitter than his own Treasury Secretary. His administration helped negotiate this bill, and he just pulled down the pants of every Republican who voted for it,” Brendan Buck, the former top aide to House Speaker Paul Ryan, told the Post.