Home’s efforts to modify coronavirus package fail, leaving aid in limbo

WASHINGTON – Republicans have blocked Democrats’ efforts to pass a law approving $ 2,000 stimulus checks for Americans by unanimous consent in the United States House, and have responded with an attempt to cut foreign aid that was thwarted by the Democrats in turn.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) Made the Democrats’ request. Rep. Rob Wittman (R., Virginia) made the Republicans request. Representative Debbie Dingell (D., Mich.), Chairing the rare Christmas Eve session, said none of the proposals had been “approved by the bipartisan leadership of the floor and committee” and therefore could not be accepted. “entertained” – upholding that leadership on either side of the aisle had opposed the other party’s bill.

Thursday’s largely token measures came in response to President Trump’s demand that lawmakers increase direct payments to Americans amid massive legislation that combines a coronavirus relief program with a government funding bill of $ 1. , $ 4 trillion. Mr Trump called on lawmakers increase direct payments to $ 2,000 for individuals starting at $ 600 per adult and per child, the current level of the bipartite bill. Congress overwhelmingly approved the legislation earlier this week, and Mr. Trump did not publicly voice his concerns until after it was passed.

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In addition to complaining that the checks were too thin, Mr. Trump had criticized the spending portion of the 5,593-page year-end package, which includes routine funding for foreign allies and international programs. Foreign aid was in Mr. Trump’s budget and had been approved by the Republican-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee and the majority of House Republicans as late as Monday.

In a letter to his GOP colleagues on Wednesday, parliamentary minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) Accused the president

Nancy Pelosi

(D., California) to try to “use the American people as leverage to make coronavirus relief dependent on government funding, which includes billions of foreign aid at a time when there is urgent need at home “.

Democrats put the blame on the president and his fellow Republicans.

“The American people need to know for sure that the Democrats are trying to get them higher stimulus payments. It’s Christmas Eve, ”Hoyer said at a press conference Thursday, adding that Mr. Trump must sign the bill immediately to help those in difficulty.

“As we saw today, Republicans in Congress and the White House cannot agree on what they want,” Hoyer said.

The president’s attacks on the legislation have thrown Washington into chaos and raised the possibility of a government shutdown next week.

Lawmakers are expected to return to Washington early next week to override Mr Trump’s veto on massive defense policy bill. Meanwhile, they have a small window to reach a compromise on separate coronavirus relief legislation before government funding runs out at 12:01 am Tuesday. Meanwhile, some of Mr. Trump’s GOP allies are trying to convince him not to veto the legislation, according to people familiar with the matter.

Some Republicans in Congress have started to show impatience with Mr. Trump’s last-minute demands in the final weeks of his presidency. Representative Anthony Gonzalez (R., Ohio) in a tweet wednesday noted that the House GOP has supported the President for four years, but “If he thinks that going to Twitter and trashing the bill that his team negotiated and that we supported on his behalf is going to bring more people by his side in this election fiasco, I hope he is wrong, although I guess we’ll see.

The coronavirus relief package has been passed by both the House and the Senate with enough support to override a possible veto. But some Republicans may feel pressured to change their stance on the legislation in light of Mr. Trump’s opposition, complicating any effort to override a veto, which requires a two-thirds majority.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many Americans to come to terms with new financial realities. Shelby Holliday of the WSJ traveled to a diverse neighborhood in Philadelphia to learn how neighbors face different struggles brought on by the same virus. Photo credit: Adam Falk / The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Trump has been largely silent on the relief bill since his criticism on Tuesday. He has yet to tell his allies in Congress whether he will veto the legislation, sparking widespread uncertainty.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.), Republican No. 4 in the Senate, told reporters on Thursday that he hoped the president would sign the combined Covid aid and government funding package.

“The best solution is for the president to sign the bill and I still hope that’s what he decides to do,” said Blunt, who chaired a brief pro forma Senate session.

Mr Blunt, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he believed there had been misunderstandings about the content of the regular government funding bill and what was in the relief bill Covid.

He said it would be a mistake for Republicans to reopen negotiations over foreign aid levels, as McCarthy had suggested.

The president’s campaign has started raising funds thanks to Mr. Trump’s opposition to the coronavirus relief program. The campaign sent a fundraising email on behalf of Mr. Trump on Wednesday. “I need you to know that I will ALWAYS fight for you. I will NEVER take a bad deal, which is why I sent the Covid Relief Bill back to Congress, ”the fundraising email said. Mr. Trump has yet to send the legislation back to Congress.

The president’s call for stronger stimulus checks is also echoing in the flows of the Senate of Georgia, where Democrats are calling on Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to back Mr. Trump’s call for payments of $ 2,000.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump left Washington for Mar-a-Lago, his private Florida club, for the vacation. He doesn’t have any public events on his schedule on Thursday, but he made it to his golf club in West Palm Beach. White House officials did not respond to inquiries about whether Mr. Trump would veto the legislation.

The bill is flown to Mar-a-Lago for Mr. Trump to sign if he chooses to do so, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The Coronavirus Relief Bill includes several crucial lifelines for Americans struggling during the pandemic. In addition to the $ 600 checks, the bill adds $ 300 to weekly unemployment benefits for 11 weeks and extends two more unemployment programs. It also provides more than $ 300 billion in assistance to small businesses – including a second round of the paycheck protection program – and is pouring more than $ 50 billion into the distribution of coronavirus vaccines, in addition to testing and tracing efforts.

The delay in adopting a coronavirus relief package could be felt earlier for some receiving unemployment benefits. The week ending December 26 is the last full week for which pandemic-related unemployment benefits are funded. In early December, around 14 million people were receiving benefits under the two pandemic programs that were due to expire this month, representing nearly three-quarters of those currently receiving unemployment benefits.

Write to Lindsay Wise at [email protected] and Andrew Restuccia at [email protected]

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