After spending days expressing his misgivings about the combined $900 billion coronavirus relief and $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill recently passed by Congress, President Donald Trump finally signed the legislation on Sunday, albeit with strings attached.
In signing the legislation, Trump invoked the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which grants him some limited flexibility and control in how appropriated funds are spent and puts pressure on Congress to address his stated concerns about the two bills rolled into one, the Washington Examiner reported.
Those issues include a request that Congress increase direct relief payments from $600 to $2,000, repeal or reform the Section 230 liability protections for Big Tech firms in the Communications Decency Act, investigate allegations of election fraud, and cut “wasteful” spending from the omnibus bill.
In a statement from the White House issued Sunday, Trump said it was his responsibility to ensure that all Americans were properly taken care of during the pandemic, and while great strides had been made previously, there was more that needed to be done that had not been adequately addressed in the recent COVID relief package.
The president cited the Impoundment Control Act of 1974 as granting him the authority to demand “many recissions” in the combined spending package, provided that he sent a “special message” to Congress that described “the amount to be reserved, the relevant accounts, the reasons for the rescission, and the economic effects of the rescission.”
The Examiner noted that, according to the Government Accountability Office, the ICA allows the president to “impound” certain appropriated funds — in other words, not spend those funds as directed — for up to 45 days so long as Congress remains in session. There are questions, however, as to whether those funds would expire or return to the prior obligations at the conclusion of the 45 days or if Congress is out of session, as will occur when Congress itself expires on Jan. 3 to make way for the next Congress.
In Trump’s message to Congress, he wrote, “I will sign the Omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed. I will send 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.”
“I am signing this bill to restore unemployment benefits, stop evictions, provide rental assistance, add money for PPP, return our airline workers back to work, add substantially more money for vaccine distribution, and much more,” he added.
He closed out the message by reiterating his demands for increased direct payments for Americans, as well as separate action from Congress on Section 230 and alleged election fraud.
McConnell a stumbling block
The Democrat-controlled House passed a stand-alone bill Monday that would increase the COVID relief checks from $600 to $2,000, though the House did not address the president’s other concerns, CNBC reported. In the Republican-controlled Senate, however, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked an effort Tuesday to hold a vote on the House-passed measure.
Instead, McConnell revealed that he would combine all three major requests into a single measure, almost certainly guaranteeing that it would not be passed by the sharply split and highly partisan Senate.
In response to news of McConnell’s plan, Trump tweeted on Tuesday, “Unless Republicans have a death wish, and it is also the right thing to do, they must approve the $2000 payments ASAP. $600 IS NOT ENOUGH! Also, get rid of Section 230 — Don’t let Big Tech steal our Country, and don’t let the Democrats steal the Presidential Election. Get tough!”