President Donald Trump in a video on Tuesday threw a wrench into what appeared to be a long-awaited bipartisan agreement on coronavirus economic relief, saying he would not sign off on the $900 billion package unless it included more direct stimulus for Americans.
Passed by Congress late Monday, the $900 billion relief package includes $600 one-time stimulus checks for most Americans, and extends supplementary unemployment benefits by $300 per week for 11 weeks. The bill was part of a larger $1.4 trillion omnibus government spending plan.
Saying the bill was “much different than anticipated,” Trump — who was reportedly not directly involved in the negotiations — said he objected to aspects of the plan, including foreign aid, funding for museums and cultural centers “that are essentially not open,” environmental programs and more.
Trump specifically said not enough was given to restaurants, “whose owners have suffered so grievously.” He said restaurants were only given a two-year deduction for business expenses —apparently referring to the restoration of tax breaks for business meals — which he said was not enough.
The outgoing president asked Congress to amend the bill to increase the cash stimulus to as much as $2000 for individuals and to cut “wasteful spending.”
“Send me a suitable bill, or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package, and maybe that administration will be me,” he added, clinging to the false claim that the election results could be overturned.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) responded to Trump with, “Let’s do it,” saying Democrats would be ready to approve a higher stimulus payment by Christmas Eve. Democrats have long argued that Americans needed more economic support during the crisis and that the $900 billion package fell far short of the $2.2 trillion HEROES Act passed by the House in October, which included $1,200 stimulus checks.
As of press time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had not publicly responded to Trump’s refusal to sign the bill. Senate Republicans, however, were reportedly unlikely to support an increase in direct stimulus, even if amended by the House this week. In the past, McConnell has not allowed attempts to boost stimulus funding to come to the Senate floor.
It’s not clear whether Trump will veto the legislation, but it passed with enough support to potentially override a presidential veto, reports indicate. In the Senate, the $900 billion package passed with a 92-6 vote in favor. In the House, the vote was 359-53.
The process of a veto vote would further delay the process, however.
The latest COVID relief package did not include industry-specific support for the hard-hit restaurant industry. It did, however, include $284 billion in another round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, which has been a lifeline for many restaurants.
The bill would allow restaurants to apply for a second helping of the forgiveable loans, and it expands how operators can use the money, creates more safeguards for small businesses, and eases the tax implications.
Industry advocates, however, say the bill does not go far enough and expressed hope that the incoming Biden administration would do more to save the industry.
Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]
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