Trump Threatens to Torpedo Covid-19 Stimulus Relief With New Demands
Date: 2020-12-24 01:33:14
Threatening to tank Congress’ massive COVID relief and government funding package, President Donald Trump’s demand for bigger aid checks for Americans is forcing Republicans traditionally wary of such spending into an uncomfortable test of allegiance.
On Thursday, House Democrats who also favor $2,000 checks will all but dare Republicans to break with Trump, calling up his proposal for a Christmas Eve vote. The president’s last-minute objection could derail critical legislation amid a raging pandemic and deep economic uncertainty. His attacks risk a federal government shutdown by early next week.
“Just when you think you have seen it all,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote Wednesday in a letter to colleagues.
“The entire country knows that it is urgent for the President to sign this bill, both to provide the coronavirus relief and to keep government open.”
Republicans led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have resisted $2,000 checks as too costly. They have not said if they will block the vote.
The president’s last-minute objections are setting up a defining showdown with his own Republican Party in his final days in office.
Rather than take the victory of the sweeping aid package, among the biggest in history, Trump is lashing out at GOP leaders over the presidential election — for acknowledging Joe Biden as president-elect and rebuffing his campaign to dispute the Electoral College results when they are tallied in Congress on Jan. 6.
The president’s push to increase direct payments for most Americans from $600 to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for couples splits the party with a politically painful loyalty test, including for GOP senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, fighting to retain their seats in the Jan. 5 special election in Georgia.
Republican lawmakers traditionally balk at big spending and many never fully embraced Trump’s populist approach. Their political DNA tells them to oppose a costlier relief package. But now they’re being asked to stand with the president.
GOP leaders were silent Wednesday, with neither McConnell nor Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, responding to requests for comment.
On a conference call, House Republican lawmakers complained that Trump threw them under the bus, according to one Republican on the private call and granted anonymity to discuss it. Most had voted for the package and they urged leaders to hit the cable news shows to explain its benefits, the person said.
Democrats were taking advantage of the Republican disarray to apply pressure for a priority. Jon Ossoff, Perdue’s Democratic opponent, tweeted simply on Tuesday night: “$2,000 checks now.”
As Congress left town for the holidays, the year-end package was part of a hard-fought compromise, a massive 5,000-plus page bill that includes the COVID aid and $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies through September and address other priorities.
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