After several months of partisan-fueled delays and stalled negotiations on a coronavirus relief package, a $900 billion measure was approved by Congress in conjunction with a must-pass $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government through September and avoid a partial government shutdown.
After President Donald Trump balked at signing the combined package into law, however, his chief Democratic rival, presumptive President-elect Joe Biden, demanded that he do so immediately.
For what it is worth, Trump said he would withhold his signature from the bill unless and until Congress increases direct assistance payments from $600 to $2,000 per person and gets rid of the “wasteful and unnecessary” foreign aid to a dozen or so countries that total in the tens of billions of dollars, at least.
Biden blames Trump for everything … of course
In a press release from the purported Biden transition team, the top Democrat seemingly blamed Trump’s refusal to sign the combined measures for any uncertainty that Americans were facing over the holiday season.
“This abdication of responsibility has devastating consequences,” Biden said in the statement. “Today, about 10 million Americans will lose unemployment insurance benefits. In just a few days, government funding will expire, putting vital services and paychecks for military personnel at risk.”
“In less than a week, a moratorium on evictions expires, putting millions at risk of being forced from their homes over the holidays,” he continued. “Delay means more small businesses won’t survive this dark winter because they lack access to the lifeline they need, and Americans face further delays in getting the direct payments they deserve as quickly as possible to help deal with the economic devastation caused by COVID-19. And while there is hope with the vaccines, we need funding to be able to distribute and administer them to millions of Americans, including frontline health care workers.”
Biden went on to note that while he deemed this bill “critical” and insisted that it must be “signed into law now,” he also characterized it as a “first step” and “down payment” toward more federal assistance that he would direct Congress to pass after taking office next year.
“In November, the American people spoke clearly that now is a time for bipartisan action and compromise. I was heartened to see members of Congress heed that message, reach across the aisle, and work together,” Biden added. “President Trump should join them, and make sure millions of Americans can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads in this holiday season.”
Congress at fault
Biden seemed to insinuate that any further delays in the disbursement of taxpayer-funded assistance was solely the fault of President Trump’s refusal to sign the bills passed by Congress. But any objective view of what has transpired over the last several months makes it clear that Congress is the entity that bears the most responsibility for the delay, as it waited until the literal last moment, with funding deadlines and shutdowns looming, to ram through a massive, pork-packed bill that lawmakers did not have time to read.
On Tuesday, Trump released a video slamming Congress for all of the wasteful spending on a plethora of items wholly unrelated to the pandemic while simultaneously giving Americans a figurative middle finger with a relative pittance of $600 relief checks.
He summed up the crux of his complaints with another tweet on Saturday that read: “I simply want to get our great people $2000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill. Also, stop the billions of dollars in ‘pork’.”
Update: Trump signs bill at last minute
Late on Sunday, Trump gave in to pressure and signed the spending bill — apparently, with conditions: “Sending back to Congress a redlined version, item by item, accompanied by the formal rescission request to Congress insisting that those funds be removed from the bill,” White House spokesman Judd Deere tweeted on Sunday. Explaining the president’s reversal, Deere noted that Congress is now expected to vote on increasing the stimulus payments from $600 to $2,000 on Monday, and that “Congress has promised” to review and fix Section 230.