Lawmakers urge Trump to sign stimulus-funding package as government shutdown looms
Republicans and Democrats on Sunday urged President Trump to sign the massive $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief and government funding package ahead of the midnight Tuesday deadline to avoid a looming shutdown.
On separate networks, Republicans including Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan took to the Sunday political news shows to say that Trump’s objections to the bill, namely his assertion that direct payments to Americans should be raised from $600 to $2,000, should have been brought up days if not weeks or months ago.
“I understand the president would like to send bigger checks to everybody. … I think what he ought to do is sign this bill and then make the case,” Toomey said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I don’t agree with $2,000 to people who have had no lost income whatsoever, but the president’s free to make that case.”
Individuals who earned up to $75,000 in the 2019 tax year would be eligible for stimulus payments, similar to guidelines for stimulus payments Congress approved in March.
Toomey went on to add that should Trump let the bill die or allow the government to shut down in the remaining weeks of his presidency, “he’ll be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior.”
Hogan was more direct in his criticism, questioning why the president hadn’t made his demand for the payments to be increased before the bill passed either the House or the Senate after months of hand-wrigining between congressional lawmakers and the Trump administration.
“If the president thought that was the case, he should have weighed in eight months ago … or at least eight days ago and not after they finally reached agreement,” Hogan told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”
“This took a long time, eight months of divisiveness in Congress,” Hogan continued. “We need to get it done. … Sign the bill, get it done, and then if the president wants to push for more, let’s get that done too.”
Toomey’s and Hogan’s comments were echoed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a progressive who has called for higher payments to individual Americans. An unlikely alliance between Sanders and conservative Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) resulted in the $600 payments being added to the relief portion of the spending package after direct payments were initially excluded.
Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week” that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin did not mention the president’s desire for higher direct payments during negotiations with Congress before the bill was finalized.
“Everybody assumed — everybody — that Mnuchin was representing the White House,” Sanders told ABC on Sunday. “I talked to Mnuchin a couple of weeks ago, and that was the assumption that everybody had.”
“What the president is doing right now is unbelievably cruel,” the Vermont senator continued. “Many millions of people are losing their extended unemployment benefits. They’re going to be evicted from their apartments because the eviction moratorium is ending. We are looking at a way to get the vaccine distributed to tens of millions of people. There’s money in that bill.”
The calls for Trump to sign the bill come as a printout of the nearly 6,000-page piece of legislation has been flown down to the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for his potential signature.
Trump has not threatened overtly to veto the bill but has refused to take action on it in recent days while echoing his calls for lawmakers to raise the amount to be distributed to Americans.
In a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday, the president complained that the $600 stimulus payments to individuals, part of the $2.3 trillion spending bill that includes $900 billion in coronavirus relief funds, was not enough while expressing dismay at foreign aid spending amounts that his own State Department requested, calling it misguided.
If the president does not sign the bill before the start of the new Congress, it will expire on Jan. 3, forcing lawmakers in the new Congress to negotiate another package.
President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday also pressed Trump to immediately sign the COVID-19 relief bill, blasting what he deemed Trump’s “abdication of responsibility.”
The federal government is set to run out of funding at midnight on Tuesday, when a seven-day stopgap bill passed last week is set to expire.