Trump reluctantly signs COVID aid, sparks fresh fight in GOP

Shelving his objections, President Donald Trump has signed a $2 trillion-plus COVID-19 and annual federal spending package providing relief for millions of Americans, even as Congress returns to confront the White House on remaining priorities in a rare end-of-session showdown.

Posted: Dec 28, 2020 12:17 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Shelving his objections, President Donald Trump has signed a $2 trillion-plus COVID-19 and annual federal spending package providing relief for millions of Americans, even as Congress returns to confront the White House on remaining priorities in a rare end-of-session showdown.

Trump appears to have accomplished little, if anything, from the days of drama over his refusal to accept the sweeping bipartisan deal. While the president’s demands for larger $2,000 pandemic relief checks seem destined to fail, his push served up a political opportunity for Democrats, who support the larger stipends and are forcing Trump’s Republican allies into a tough spot.

On Monday, the Democratic-led House is set to vote to boost the $600 payments to $2,000, sending a new bill to the Senate. There, Republicans have the majority but reject more spending and are likely to defeat the effort.

The showdown offers more symbol than substance, and it’s not expected to alter the massive package that Trump reluctantly signed into law late Sunday after golfing at his Florida club. The $900 billion in COVID aid and $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies will deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and avert a federal government shutdown that otherwise would have started Tuesday.

Together with votes Monday and Tuesday to override Trump’s veto of a sweeping defense bill, the action is perhaps the last standoff of the president’s final days in office as he imposes fresh demands and disputes the results of the presidential election. The new Congress is set to be sworn in Sunday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., seized on the divide between the president and his party, urging Trump to put pressure on his Senate GOP allies to pass the bill.

“The President must immediately call on Congressional Republicans to end their obstruction and to join him and Democrats in support of our stand-alone legislation to increase direct payment checks to $2,000,” Pelosi said in a tweet.

Trump’s sudden decision to sign the bill came as he faced escalating criticism from lawmakers on all sides over his eleventh-hour demands. The bipartisan bill negotiated by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had already passed the House and Senate by wide margins. Lawmakers had thought they had Trump’s blessing after months of negotiations with his administration.

The president’s defiant refusal to act, publicized with a heated video he tweeted just before the Christmas holiday, sparked chaos, a lapse in unemployment benefits for millions and the threat of a government shutdown in the midst of a pandemic. It was another crisis of his own making, resolved when he ultimately signed the bill into law.

In his statement about the signing, Trump repeated his frustrations with the COVID-19 relief bill for providing only $600 checks to most Americans and complained about what he considered unnecessary spending, particularly on foreign aid.

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

Democrats, who have the majority in the House, “will reject any rescissions” submitted by the president, said Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, chair of the Appropriations Committee.

For now, the administration can only begin work sending out the $600 payments.

Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, a conservative who supported Trump’s extraordinary and futile challenge of the election results, counted himself Monday among the opponents of a more generous relief package and Trump’s call for higher payments.

“It’s money we don’t have, we have to borrow to get and we can’t afford to pay back,” he said on “Fox and Friends.”

But Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York said she was open to the idea of $2,000 checks. “Many Americans are in dire need of relief,” she said on the show.

Altogether, Republicans and Democrats alike 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.”

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,” Schumer tweeted. “Then I will move to pass it in the Senate.” He said 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.

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.

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.”

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.”

___

Colvin reported from West Palm Beach, Florida.

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Illinois Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 1389443

Reported Deaths: 25592
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook55642910467
DuPage924131318
Will769631033
Lake683861018
Kane59457808
Winnebago34140507
Madison30959526
McHenry29200295
St. Clair28348519
Peoria23455343
Champaign21112155
Sangamon19103240
McLean18560188
Tazewell17232305
Rock Island15247329
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LaSalle12789250
Macon10998211
DeKalb10123121
Vermilion10035143
Adams8694127
Williamson7609134
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Boone683878
Ogle621183
Grundy598778
Clinton578991
Coles5774100
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Jackson510165
Henry507970
Livingston489991
Woodford484482
Stephenson482785
Macoupin478388
Effingham476972
Franklin454278
Marion4515117
Jefferson4424122
Monroe438694
Lee419354
Randolph416587
Fulton405359
Logan398364
Morgan393482
Christian383975
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Bureau378484
Fayette322955
Perry320360
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McDonough291051
Jersey271752
Douglas260736
Saline260457
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Shelby232838
Union228241
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Cass203527
Ford189048
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Jo Daviess182724
Pike182153
Wayne181253
Hancock180931
Carroll178537
Edgar177040
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White170626
Washington164825
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De Witt157229
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Marshall108119
Hamilton84116
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Brown7326
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Stark64824
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Calhoun5302
Henderson52814
Scott4891
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Alexander47411
Gallatin4704
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Pope3284
Unassigned512433
Out of IL350

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 751526

Reported Deaths: 13799
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1033281788
Lake557151010
Allen41710692
St. Joseph36998565
Hamilton36604417
Elkhart29413461
Tippecanoe22914227
Vanderburgh22559400
Porter19359326
Johnson18477389
Hendricks17689317
Clark13228195
Madison13158344
Vigo12625253
LaPorte12420221
Monroe12211176
Delaware10968198
Howard10337225
Kosciusko9630121
Hancock8577147
Bartholomew8172157
Warrick7860156
Floyd7812180
Grant7242179
Wayne7162201
Boone6972103
Morgan6765141
Dubois6221118
Marshall6211116
Cass6017110
Henry5902110
Dearborn589878
Noble581688
Jackson509176
Shelby501796
Lawrence4745122
Gibson445094
Clinton442755
Harrison441775
DeKalb439885
Montgomery438490
Whitley406643
Huntington403181
Steuben400259
Miami395269
Jasper388654
Knox376391
Putnam373260
Wabash362383
Ripley347270
Adams345555
Jefferson336186
White332253
Daviess3033100
Wells295381
Decatur289892
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey273835
LaGrange273172
Scott270156
Clay267148
Washington246136
Randolph244783
Jennings235349
Spencer234631
Starke228058
Fountain221048
Sullivan214643
Owen212158
Fulton203042
Jay200932
Carroll193720
Orange188255
Perry187237
Rush175926
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Franklin170335
Tipton166446
Parke149616
Pike138134
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Martin91715
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