After continuous delays and perpetual complaints, President Donald Trump has finally signed Congress’s overwhelmingly-approved COVID-19 relief bill into law. In doing so he extends the unemployment benefits of 14 million Americans until Spring, and averts a Tuesday government shutdown.
Prior to Trump signing the bill, millions of Americans had temporarily lost unemployment benefits. In addition to extended unemployment benefits, the bill contains a $300 billion support package for businesses, schools, tenants facing evictions, and COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. The stimulus check included in the bill will see most Americans receive a one-time payment of $600, which is half of the $1200 in the first stimulus check given to Americans nearer the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Unemployment payments, meanwhile, are slated to be increased by $300 per week.
Trump had initially refused to sign the bill for a number of reasons, calling it a “disgrace” and labeling its extensive “wasteful” foreign aid as not putting “America first.” His foremost justification, however, is that the $600 stimulus check is too low. On Twitter, Trump defended his failure to sign the bill before unemployment benefits ran out by saying, “I simply want to get our great people $2000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill.”
The President’s objections were widely surprising to lawmakers, considering that up until his public repudiation of the bill he had essentially refrained from commenting on the long, contested path to the bill’s eventual Congress approval. In addition, the $600 stimulus check amount was proposed by Trump’s top economic adviser, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, but the President had never given any indication that he thought this sum to be too paltry.
President-elect Biden condemned Trump’s inaction, calling it an “abdication of responsibility.” Biden further said, “It is the day after Christmas, and millions of families don’t know if they’ll be able to make ends meet because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority.”
It was perhaps bi-partisan pressure that ultimately convinced Trump to sign the bill. Though condemnation from Democrats was expected, even Republicans attacked his decision; Senator Pat Toomey said Trump would be remembered for “chaos, misery and erratic behavior.” After Trump signed the bill, fellow Republican Senator Mitt Romney Tweeted, “[I am] relieved that this long-awaited, bipartisan emergency #COVID19 legislation has finally been signed into law. Help is now on the way to workers, families, and small businesses across the country who are desperately in need.”