In the final days of his Presidential term, President Donald Trump refused to sign the COVID-19 relief bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress into law. As a result, millions of Americans have lost their unemployment benefits, which the bill was set to extend until spring.
In addition to extended unemployment benefits, the bill contained a $300 billion support package for businesses, schools, tenants facing evictions, and COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. The stimulus check included in the bill would have seen 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, were slated to be increased by $300 per week.
Trump 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 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 are 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 has 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.”
Because the aid bill contains federal budget planning up to September 2021, a government shutdown is on the table unless the bill or a substitute bill is signed by Tuesday.