- President Donald Trump threw a wrench into the otherwise settled stimulus package already passed by both chambers of Congress when he tweeted out a 4-minute video on Tuesday night.
- Trump was expected to sign the more than $2 trillion bill, which was negotiated on his behalf by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
- Yet after Mnuchin assured Congress that Trump would sign it, Trump implicitly threatened a veto in his video, where he appeared to confuse the roughly $900 million relief package with the more standard $1.2 trillion omnibus appropriations bill to keep the government running and avoid a shutdown.
- Trump says he wants direct payments to get bumped up from $600 per individual to $2,000, but it's too late for the bill to be redone.
- With key assistance programs expiring in days along with the Dec. 28 deadline for a government shutdown looming, here's where things stand and what could happen next.
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President Donald Trump was expected to sign a long-awaited stimulus bill that would send economic relief to millions of Americans, but on Tuesday night he suddenly threw a wrench into the agreement with a demand to increase direct payments from $600 to $2,000 — an offering immediately supported by top Democrats.
The last-minute turmoil leaves Congress scrambling to deliver much-needed aid and avert an impending government shutdown, all during the holidays and amid the coronavirus pandemic. Trump is also expected to go on vacation on Wednesday to his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida for Christmas.
Here's a breakdown of where things stand and what could happen next.
What Trump is asking for
Trump tweeted out a 4-minute video on Tuesday night blasting the $900 billion bipartisan stimulus package Congress sent to him for his signature.
He called the bill "a disgrace," and described the new round of $600 stimulus checks as "ridiculously low." Instead, Trump said the checks should be bumped up to $2,000 per individual — a move at odds with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's stance.
The president was not involved in the negotiations around what became the 5,500 page Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which passed both the House and Senate on Monday. Instead, he chose to delegate to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Yet after Mnuchin assured Congress that Trump would sign the bill as soon as possible, Trump implicitly threatened to veto it unless the stimulus checks were hiked.
Why Congress attached the stimulus package to the omnibus bill
In the video, Trump appeared to confuse the actual COVID-19 relief provisions with the $1.4 trillion omnibus appropriations bill, as the two were merged together in the final package passed by lawmakers.
"It's called the COVID relief bill, but it has almost nothing to do with COVID," Trump misleadingly said.
To wrap up the year's legislative session, Congress decided to bundle the two bills together, which turned out to be one of the largest spending packages in American history.
What Congress has said to Trump
Top Democrats House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have backed the president's bid for higher stimulus checks, against the wishes of the GOP's McConnell.
Pelosi has proposed to bring a standalone bill on the direct payments to the House floor, though the move can only happen with House Republican support.
This makes it unlikely that the already-negotiated $600 checks will get a boost, also considering the fact that McConnell and Senate Republicans have been widely opposed to raising the amount.
When emergency aid expires and government funding runs out
After eight months of on-and-off talks, Congress finally agreed upon a second stimulus bill that aims to ease the ongoing economic pains caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The legislation would extend federal aid programs enacted in the last massive emergency-relief bill, the CARES Act in March, most of which are due to expire either on or in the few days before December 31.
Roughly 10 million people remain unemployed, and millions more face eviction and food insecurity. The stimulus would provide an extra $300 per week in jobless benefits through March, inject $38 billion into food and rental assistance and continue an eviction moratorium until the end of January, as well as deliver one-time direct payments worth $600 per individual and per child to Americans earning up to $75,000 per year on their tax returns.
The $1.4 trillion spending bill would keep the federal government funded until September 30, 2021, and avoid a looming shutdown on December 28.
Regardless of how much Trump knows about what's in the bill and what he's objecting to — including foreign spending items that were included in the White House's own budget proposal to Congress — the timing could be perilous.
What happens if Trump vetoes the bill
If Trump ultimately decides to veto the bill, Congress can force it through by overriding it. The downside is that this process may potentially delay the arrival of stimulus checks and additional aid to Americans.
The president can also derail the timeline by pursuing a so-called pocket veto, where he can effectively veto the bill by not signing it within 10 days.
Further complicating matters is the constitutionally mandated swearing in of the new Congress on Jan. 3, in addition to the Senate majority potentially changing hands if Democrats sweep the two Georgia Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5.
"In order to keep government from shutting down, I've already been notified of the possibility of going back into session to override this veto," Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley told reporters on Wednesday.
Both the House and Senate need a two-thirds majority to override a presidential veto. Given the numbers in which the bill passed both chambers on Monday night — 92-6 in the Senate and 359-53 in the House — this scenario could be feasible, though lawmakers may change their votes.
If Trump refuses to sign the bill and Congress doesn't choose to override it, then aid will be held up and the government will shutdown until President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20 and approves the package.
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