President Donald Trump on Tuesday slammed the COVID-19 relief and stimulus package passed by Congress Monday, urging lawmakers to amend specific portions of the bill before sending it to his desk for signature.
In a video shared to social media, Trump took particular issue with the low amount of money allocated as direct payments to Americans.
The proposed legislation, which combines coronavirus-fighting funds with financial relief for individuals and businesses, would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans. In addition, the legislation includes a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses, restaurants and theaters and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.
“The bill they [lawmakers] are now planning to send back to my desk is much different than anticipated, it really is a disgrace,” Trump said, later adding: “The bill also allows stimulus checks for the family members of illegal aliens, allowing them to get up to $1,800 each. This is far more than the Americans are given. Despite all of this wasteful spending, and much more, the $900 billion package provides hardworking taxpayers with only $600 each in relief payments, and not enough money is given to small businesses.”
While it is not true that families of undocumented immigrants can receive more simply because of their status, the new bill does make the $600 payment available to American citizens and U.S. residents, even if they file taxes jointly with someone who is undocumented. It will also allow for mixed-status families to receive a $600 check for their children, as long as the child has legal status.
Under the CARES Act passed in March, U.S. citizens or legal residents with an undocumented spouse were blocked from receiving any payment at all. The exclusion was met with outcry and lawsuits when the first round of payments went out in April.
Trump did not expressly threaten to veto the legislation in the video unless payments to Americans were upped from $600 to $2,000, but seemed to suggest that he would not sign. It was this portion of the bill, among several others, that caused lawmakers to stall for months on an agreement.
“I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple. I am 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.”
On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) urged Trump to "sign the bill to keep government open," imploring him to direct House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to "agree with the Democratic unanimous consent request for $2,000 direct payments! This can be done by noon on Christmas Eve!"
In a letter sent to the House Democratic caucus, Speaker Pelosi wrote that she is calling on McCarthy (R-CA) to agree to unanimous consent to increase direct payments, per President Trump's Tuesday night request.
"If the President truly wants to join us in $2,000 payments, he should call upon Leader McCarthy to agree to our Unanimous Consent request," she wrote.
"Just when you think you have seen it all, last night, the President said that he would possibly veto the bicameral agreement negotiated between Republicans & Democrats," Pelosi wrote of Trump's Tuesday night announcement, saying that Republicans responded with "Sphinx-like silence" when she asked about the highest number the president would accept for direct payments.
"We are awaiting word from Leader Hoyer as to whether Leader McCarthy will agree to or reject our Unanimous Consent request," she added, noting that the House is scheduled for a pro forma session Thursday morning.
"The entire country knows that it is urgent for the President to sign this bill, both to provide the coronavirus relief and to keep the government open," she concluded. "Let us pray!"
Other lawmakers agreed, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who said he supports Trump's "demand to increase direct payments for long-suffering Americans to $2,000 per person" in a Twitter post.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said that "the House will take up another direct payment bill" in a Twitter post, seeming to suggest this will take place in Thursday's pro forma House session.
Following the release of Trump's video, a number of prominent Democrats agreed with Trump's call for larger direct payments to Americans.
Earlier, Pelosi said that "Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!"
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said that she and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) "already co-wrote the COVID amendment for $2,000 checks, so it’s ready to go."
"Glad to see the President is willing to support our legislation," she wrote to Twitter. "We can pass $2k checks this week if the Senate GOP agrees to stand down."
"Send the bill back, and we will put in the $2,000 we’ve been fighting for that your party has been blocking," Rep. Tlaib added.
Replying to his fellow New York legislator Ocasio-Cortez, the Senate's Democratic leader Chuck Schumer wrote, "I’m in. Whaddya say, Mitch? Let’s not get bogged down with ideological offsets and unrelated items and just DO THIS! The American people deserve it."
Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), wrote, "let's do it," noting that he "first introduced a bill to provide a $2,000 direct payment" with Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) "7 months ago."
Before signing off, Trump also reiterated fraudulent claims that he won the election, adding that “we will get it done” should he win a second term. The Electoral College voted last week, affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the November election.
The bill passed both houses of Congress by overwhelming, veto-proof majorities.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.