U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday lashed out at lawmakers over the newly approved US$900-billion COVID-19 relief package, threatening not to sign the bill if changes are not made to increase the amount of stimulus checks.
US Congress Passes $900 Billion COVID-19 Relief Package
"The bill they are now planning to send back to my desk is much different than anticipated... It really is a disgrace," the outgoing President said, arguing that it contains many measures that almost have nothing to do with COVID-19, such as foreign assistance funds, funding for John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the Smithsonian Institution.
The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate both approved the relief package late Monday, along with US$1.4 trillion in government funding for the rest of the 2021 fiscal year, sending the spending bill to Trump to sign into law.
The US$900-billion relief plan includes another round of direct payments for individuals, federal unemployment benefits and more funding for Paycheck Protection Program to support small businesses. It also features hundreds of billions more for schools, testing and the distribution of vaccines.
Trump said he wants Congress to increase the amount in the stimulus checks to US$2,000 for individuals or US$4,000 for couples, calling the US$600 for individuals "ridiculously low." According to the current bill, a family of four would receive up to US$2,400.
"I'm also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation, and to send me a suitable bill, or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package," Trump said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointed out that Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the president wanted for direct checks.
"At last, the President has agreed to US$2,000. Democrats are ready to bring this to the floor this week by unanimous consent. Let's do it!" said Pelosi.
Even if a measure for larger direct payments could be approved in the Democrat-held House, it remains to be seen whether the Senate would give a green light to it. Some Senate Republicans have indicated reluctance to higher stimulus payments.