PRESIDENT Donald Trump has threatened to veto the $908billion Covid-19 stimulus package he called "wasteful" – and instead is demanding $2,000 direct payments to Americans.
Trump on Tuesday rejected the second coronavirus stimulus package, calling it "a disgrace" for offering Americans a small $600 in direct payments, and instead challenged Congress to remove unnecessary funding in the bill.
He then demanded Congress return to the drawing board and offer Americans more than triple relief payments than the "ridiculously low $600."
Although Trump did not specifically say he would veto the bill – which passed Monday in both the House and Senate – Trump said he would not accept the package.
"It really is a disgrace," he said in a video he tweeted.
"I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000, or $4,000 for a couple," Trump continued. "I'm also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation, and just send me a suitable bill."
Trump had an unlikely ally in his demands – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined him in calls for raising direct payments to $2,000.
"Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks," she tweeted. "At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!"
Her Democratic counterpart in the Senate, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer,blasted Trump for the video and said Democrats had offered the direct payments months ago.
"We spent months trying to secure $2K checks but Republicans blocked it. Trump needs to sign the bill to help people & keep the gov't open & we're glad to pass more aid Americans need," Schumer said. "Maybe Trump can finally make himself useful and get Republicans not to block it again."
President-elect Joe Biden has said he wants a third stimulus package soon as well, calling the $600 a "down-payment."
The second iteration of the Covid-19 stimulus package was part of a hard-fought effort from both parties that includes a $1.4 trillion allocation to fund government agencies through September.
It also contains other end-of-session priorities, including providing funds for cash-strapped transit system, increasing food stamp benefits, and an additional $4 billion to help other nations provide a Covid-19 vaccine to its citizenry.
It would provide $600 in direct payments to Americans, plus an additional $300 in pandemic unemployment assistance.
The bill was quickly approved in both the House and the Senate in a matter of hours, prompting many lawmakers to say they didn't have time to read the bill so they overwhelmingly supported it to provide assistance to their constituents.
The Senate voted in favor of the bill by a vote of 92-6 after the House pushed it through with a vote of 359-53.
Should Trump attempt to veto the bill, the votes would easily override a veto.
Facing the camera in front of a decorative fireplace setting complete with a wreath and garland, Trump placed blame on both parties in Congress, and urged lawmakers to get rid of unnecessary items in the bill so he could pass higher direct payments.
"Throughout the summer, Democrats cruelly blocked Covid relief legislation in an effort to advance their extreme left wing agenda and influence the election," Trump began.
"Then a few months ago, Congress started negotiations on a new package to get urgently needed help to the American people," he added.
Trump slammed Congress for taking months to deliberate over the package and still returning with results he found to be ridiculous.
"It’s taken forever. However, the bill they are now planning to send back to my desk is much different than anticipated. It really is a disgrace," Trump said of the bill.
"For example, among the more than 5,000 pages in this bill, which nobody in Congress has read because of its length and complexity, it’s called the Covid Relief Bill, but it has almost nothing to do with Covid."
The president then began running down the numbers of the bill, which he says provide relief for things that are unrelated to the effects of Covid-19 in the United States.
"This bill contains $85.5 million for assistance to Cambodia, $134 million to Burma, $1.3 billion for Egypt and the Egyptian military, which will go out and buy almost exclusively Russian military equipment," he listed.
He continued: "$25 million for democracy and gender programs in Pakistan, $505 million to Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama, $40 million for the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, which is not even open for business."
"One billion for the Smithsonian and an additional $154 million for the National Gallery of Art. Likewise, these facilities are essentially not open," Trump continued. "Seven million for reef fish management, $25 billion to combat Asian carp, $2.5 million to count the number of amberjack fish in the Gulf of Mexico."
"A provision to promote the breeding of fish in federal hatcheries, $3 million in poultry production technology, $2 million to research the impact of down trees, $566 million for construction projects at the FBI," Trump added.
Trump continued to drag the bill through the mud for offering funds to undocumented individuals.
"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," Trump continued.
"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," he said.
"And in particular, restaurants, whose owners have suffered so grievously. They were only given a deduction for others to use in business, their restaurant, for two years" the president continued.
"This two year period must be withdrawn, which will allow the owners to obtain financing and get their restaurants back in condition," he urged.
"Congress can terminate it at a much later date, but two years is not acceptable. It’s not enough," Trump concluded.
"Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests while sending the bare minimum to the American people who need it," he said. "It wasn’t their fault, it was China’s fault. Not their fault."
Finally, Trump got to what he was asking of Congress.
"I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple," he finished.
"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, and maybe that administration will be me, and we will get it done," he ended.
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