Joe Biden has demanded Donald Trump immediately sign a broad government funding bill as unemployment benefits lapse for millions of out-of-work Americans, calling the presidents refusal an abdication of responsibility with devastating consequences.
Extended unemployment relief that has served as a critical lifeline for millions of Americans during the public health crisis expired on Saturday, following the presidents last-minute rejection of a spending package that includes $900bn in coronavirus aid.
It is the day after Christmas, and millions of families dont know if theyll be able to make ends meet because of president Donald Trumps refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority, he said in a statement on Saturday.
If the president refuses to sign the bill or veto it all together, he threatens a broad range of Covid-19-related relief measures for roughly 14 million people, including weekly unemployment payments and a federal moratorium on evictions that is set to expire on New Years Eve.
After several weeks of negotiations before an eleventh-hour deadline on Monday, Congress agreed to a $900bn relief package that includes a $600 one-time direct payment to most Americans, along with an extension of $300 in federal weekly unemployment aid, in addition to state-level benefits, for 11 weeks.
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But on Wednesday, before he left the White House to spend Christmas at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, the president released a video message calling the legislation a disgrace and demanded Congress immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from the bill.
On Saturday, he announced: I simply want to get our great people $2,000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill.
The president has conflated the omnibus spending bill, which includes budget items the White House sought months ago and that his Republican allies have approved, with the relief package, arguing that it does not contain enough one-time direct payments to most Americans and includes too much in foreign aid.
Those budget items were among those negotiated between Congress and the White House. On Monday, 128 of 195 House Republicans voted to support the budget.
If Mr Trump does sign the bill on Saturday, there is still likely to be a temporary lapse in benefits, as states scramble to adjust to the new timeline, potentially cutting off aid for out-of-work Americans for at least a week, effectively cutting funding down from 11 weeks to just 10, according to Michele Evermore with the National Employment Law Project.
The bill signs off on $600 cheques for most Americans, but Mr Trump has pushed for $2,000 checks Democrats have pushed for larger checks for months, following a one-time payment in April of $1,200, but were repeatedly rejected by congressional Republicans.
Mr Biden has repeatedly referred to the funding measure as a down payment ahead of his inauguration on 20 January, after which he has pledged more support to Americans during the emergency.
During debate over the latest relief package, Democrats sought another round of similarly sized payments, but those efforts were blocked by lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Senate, arguing that higher payments would negatively impact the federal deficit, despite their overwhelming support for corporate tax deductions in the bill, along with the presidents $1.75 trillion tax cuts and the recent passage of a $741bn defence budget.
Democrats have sought to leverage the presidents demands for $2,000 payments, but Republicans rebuffed the presidents demands on Christmas Eve.
Why would politicians not want to give people $2,000, rather than only $600?” the president said on Twitter on Christmas, which he spent playing on golf. Give our people the money!
More than 20 million Americans are relying on some form of unemployment aid.
Roughly 869,000 people filed new claims for state jobless benefits within the last week ending on 19 December, which has fallen from the previous week but is significantly higher than jobless claims from a month earlier, before a new spike in Covid-19 infections and deaths across the US.
Nearly 400,000 people filed for aid through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance programme, one of two federal programmes that will expire without the presidents signature.
A partial government shutdown will also begin on Tuesday unless Congress can agree to a temporary stop-gap measure to fund the government until it can reach an agreement on the larger funding bill.