President Donald Trump on Tuesday night demanded that Congress increase the “ridiculously low” stimulus checks to millions of Americans in the COVID relief bill, calling the nearly $900 billion legislation passed by Congress a day before “a disgrace.”
Trump went as far as to suggest he would not immediately sign off on the much-needed aid package that has been stalled for months to deliver relief to millions of Americans, calling on Congress in a video posted to Twitter to increase stimulus checks to Americans from $600 to $2,000.
“I am 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,” Trump said.
Trump’s refusal to sign the bill would shut down the government on Dec. 29 and freeze $900 billion in emergency economic aid.
The comments come after just last week reports revealed that the president had complained to some aides that the $600 stimulus checks were too low and that he wanted them raised to $1,200 or $2,000. Aides had stepped in to stop him from potentially wrecking the negotiations.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tweeted swiftly after Trump’s video was posted, saying congressional Democrats would be prepared to meet as soon as this week to advance the $2,000 stimulus checks.
“Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks,” Pelosi tweeted on Tuesday night. “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!”
The package including the slimmer checks was introduced on Monday afternoon and passed the House and Senate late Tuesday night with wide bipartisan support. Republicans had insisted on the economic relief portion totaling less than $1 trillion.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also backed the effort for larger stimulus checks, tweeting that Republicans had blocked moves by Democrats for “months” to put forward $2,000 checks.
“Trump needs to sign the bill to help people and keep the government open and we’re glad to pass more aid Americans need,” Schumer wrote. “Maybe Trump can finally make himself useful and get Republicans not to block it again.”
But the effort to approve heftier checks is likely to face opposition — in fact, if any Republican in the House opposed Pelosi’s effort on Thursday, it would not pass. Such a change would also require Senate Republicans to pass the measure unanimously, which is unlikely.
Trump’s video appears to have come as a surprise to even his own Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, who tweeted before the video was released on Tuesday that he was pleased that Congress had passed the package “on an overwhelming bipartisan basis.”
Many of the other complaints Trump made in the four-minute video, including foreign aid agreements and others, are not part of the $900 billion COVID relief agreement that was packaged together with coronavirus relief but represent separately negotiated parts of the legislation, the Washington Post points out.
“It’s called the COVID relief bill, but it has almost nothing to do with COVID,” Trump said in the video before railing on Congress for finding “plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests while sending the bare minimum to the American people.”
According to the Post, Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, kept the video very closely held on Tuesday. Several sources told the Post that even aides involved in the negotiations were only made aware of the video an hour before it was posted.
It remains unclear whether or not Trump will sign the bill, he did not explicitly say he would veto it.