Trump asks Congress for $2,000 stimulus checks, criticizing COVID-19 relief package he was expected to sign

  • President Donald Trump on Tuesday criticized the COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress.
  • In a video, he conflated the $900 package with another measure funding the federal government, criticizing the inclusion of foreign aid.
  • The outgoing president also criticized the $600 stimulus checks as insufficient, asking Congress to increase the amount to $2,000.
  • It is unclear if Trump would veto an unamended stimulus package. A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
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President Donald Trump is belatedly criticizing the COVID-19 stimulus package that the White House earlier suggested he would support, and suggested he wouldn't sign it right away without major changes by Congress.

In a video tweeted Tuesday night, the lame-duck president conflated the $900 billion coronavirus relief measure with a separate $1.4 trillion omnibus measure it was merged with to keep the federal government funded into next year.

Much of the president's ire was trained on foreign aid measures which actually formed part of the government spending bill, and not the negotiated emergency relief package. The legislation passed both chambers of Congress with broad bipartisan support on Monday evening, which could pave the way for a veto override if Trump holds firm.

Trump did not say whether or not he would actually veto the measure if it is not altered.

He blamed Democrats alone for a months-long impasse — but the Democratic-controlled House approved two stimulus packages that stalled due to Republican opposition in the Senate. The president himself called off negotiations in a pre-election tweet in early October and tried to restarting them only hours later.

Trump also criticized the $600 payments approved by Congress as insufficient. That amount, though, was introduced by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, The Washington Post reported. Republican lawmakers also sought to keep the overall price tag of the legislation below $1 trillion, and expanding the cash amount of checks would likely swell the cost of the rescue package.

"It really is a disgrace," he said, adding that he would be "asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 dollars."

The latest $900 billion rescue package was forged in negotiations among Congressional leaders that saw virtually no input from Trump. It includes enhanced unemployment insurance, small business aid, and vaccine distribution funds.

Trump repeatedly called for stimulus checks and a large relief deal in the runup to the election. But his interest on the matter grew muted after his loss to President-elect Joe Biden.

The Post reported last week that White House aides stepped in to prevent Trump from demanding larger stimulus checks, fearing it could torpedo the fragile bipartisan negotiations on Capitol Hill. 

Shortly after the emergency spending deal was announced, a White House spokesperson had suggested Trump would sign the measure as it stood. "We look forward to Congress sending a bill to his desk imminently for signature," Ben Williamson told reporters on Sunday.

A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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