Trump Signs Pandemic Relief Bill After Unemployment Aid Lapses

Emily Cochrane, Nelson D. Schwartz and 

Dec. 27, 2020

President Trump, who had stalled on the bill for days, issued a series of demands for congressional action even as he signed it, though lawmakers showed little immediate enthusiasm for his requests.

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WASHINGTON — President Trump on Sunday abruptly signed a measure providing $900 billion in pandemic aid and funding the government through September, ending last-minute turmoil he himself had created over legislation that will offer an economic lifeline to millions of Americans and avert a government shutdown.

The legislative package will provide billions of dollars for the distribution of vaccines, funds for schools, small businesses, hospitals and American families, and money needed to keep the government open for the remainder of the fiscal year. The enactment came less than 48 hours before the government would have shut down and just days before an eviction moratorium and other critical pandemic relief provisions were set to expire.

But it also came after two critical unemployment programs lapsed, guaranteeing a delay in benefits for millions of unemployed Americans.

The crisis was one of Mr. Trump’s own making, after he blindsided lawmakers and White House officials with a videotaped implicit threat on Tuesday to veto the package, which his top deputies had helped negotiate and which had cleared both chambers of Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support nearly a week ago. The 5,593-page legislation was flown to Florida, where the president is spending the winter holidays, on Thursday and had been waiting for Mr. Trump’s signature since.

Having been largely on the sidelines during monthslong negotiations, the president suddenly threatened to withhold his signature with an unexpected demand to more than triple the $600 direct payments to $2,000 and with criticism over some government funding provisions that provided foreign aid. But Republicans had insisted on curtailing the size of the direct payments to accommodate conservative concerns about the size of the package, and the provisions Mr. Trump singled out were in line with the president’s budget request this year.

Even as he acquiesced to bipartisan pleas to sign the legislation, the president issued a series of demands for congressional action, though lawmakers showed little immediate eagerness to embrace them with just six days left in the session.

“I will sign the omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed,” Mr. Trump said in a statement late Sunday, saying he would send a formal request asking for some of the funds to be removed. But the 25-day time frame for considering such a request will collide with the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Jan. 20, and House Democrats said they do not plan to vote on the request.

“The House Appropriations Committee has jurisdiction over rescissions, and our Democratic majority will reject any rescissions submitted by President Trump,” said Representative Nita Lowey of New York, the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. “By turning the page on this request, we will allow the Biden-Harris administration to begin to build back better.”

Mr. Trump claimed in his statement that the Senate would “start the process for a vote” on legislation that would increase direct payments and address a provision that would repeal a legal shield for social media companies that he has tried to force into a sweeping military policy bill. The president, who has been consumed with false claims of voter fraud since his election loss, also claimed that Congress would take up the issue, a certain nonstarter for Democrats, who control the House.

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published this page in News and Politics 2020-12-28 04:24:00 -0800
published this page in News and Politics 2020-12-28 04:24:00 -0800