Dec. 27 (UPI) — President Donald Trump on Sunday night signed an omnibus funding bill and an associated coronavirus relief bill as unemployment benefits expired and a government shutdown loomed Tuesday.
The bill extends billions of dollars in coronavirus relief to millions of Americans.
Members of Congress had urged the president to sign the relief bill and a $1.4 trillion omnibus bill to fund the government through September after Trump shocked lawmakers by panning the relief bill and calling for direct payments to Americans to be increased from $600 in the bill to $2,000.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., one of the most adamant voices supporting increased payments for Americans called Trump’s last-minute refusal to sign the bill “unbelievably cruel,” calling on the president to sign the bill that would restore unemployment benefits and moratoriums on evictions and allow Congress to approve $2,000 payments later.
“Sign the bill Mr. President and then immediately, Monday, Tuesday, we can pass a $2,000 direct payment to the working families of this country,” Sanders told ABC News’ This Week, adding that “the suffering of this country will be immense” if Trump does not sign the bill.
The stimulus and funding bills are tied together, and while Trump did not threaten to veto the measures, he did not sign them when expected on Christmas Eve on Thursday.
If Trump had not signed the stimulus legislation before a new Congress arrives Jan. 3, the bills would have expired, forcing lawmakers to negotiate another package.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., had called on Trump to accept that “you don’t get everything you want, even if you’re the president of the United States,” while also calling for a separate negotiation on $2,000 payments.
“I understand he wants to be remembered for advocating for big checks, but the danger is he’ll be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior if he allows this to expire,” Toomey said of Trump on Fox News Sunday.
Toomey, however, has expressed that Republicans were unlikely to approve the increased payments, after blocking an effort by House Democrats to amend the stimulus bill on Thursday.
“Why should we be sending $2,000 to people with a six-figure income who’ve had no suspension, no reduction of their income at all?” Toomey said.
“This money isn’t sitting on a shelf. We’re going to print it or we’re going to borrow it, and I think the aid should be much, much more targeted. It should be targeted to people who’ve actually lost their job. Small businesses that are actually in danger of going under. Those are very real categories. The numbers are significant.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had said that she would seek a roll-call vote on the proposal to increase the payments Monday if Trump did not sign the bill.
On Saturday, Trump posted on Twitter to “increase payments to the people, get rid of the ‘pork,” and included his video message from Tuesday expressing his dissatisfaction with the legislation.
The bills had been sent to his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., where the president arrived Wednesday.