Trump threatens surprise veto of COVID bill: Pelosi agrees, relief checks should be $2,000

Democrats have been pushing for a $2,000 payment for months despite Republicans push back. Will the president’s potential veto get people more help?

By: Lynn Sweet

The fate of the desperately needed COVID-19 relief package Congress approved Monday is in limbo, the result of a surprise veto threat from President Donald Trump — who, frantically trying to overturn the election, sat out the negotiations.

Trump’s central complaint in a video he posted on Twitter is that Congress should send folks $2,000 checks, not the “ridiculously low” amount of $600 his own Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, wanted.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi found herself in rare agreement with Trump.

Game on.

“Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks. 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!” Pelosi said in a tweet.

Pelosi called Trump’s bluff.

The Democratic-run House will raise the payments to $2,000 in a blink.

The ball is now in Senate Majority Leader’s Mitch McConnell’s court.

Will Trump deliver Republican senators? The ones who will be counting the Electoral College votes in a few weeks making Joe Biden the president?

Until the Trump veto threat, the COVID legislation was the best the deeply divided Congress could get done.

It was a compromise. The perfect, as the saying goes, was sacrificed for the good. Or the good enough.

Trump listed his complaints about the legislation — actually two bills, one to keep government running — in his four-minute video.

A short time after that, he posted another video, of him going on about the “theft” of the election by Democrats “using the virus as a pretext.”

Trump never explicitly said he would sign the legislation; neither did he try to improve it by threatening a veto. He was AWOL.

Trump’s team, including Mnuchin, signed off on the deal after months of nothing happening — and the economy melting, jobless benefits running out, coronavirus cases soaring and the states needing federal cash to distribute the new COVID vaccines.

“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.

That’s a reference to his continued fight to overturn the election results.

He called the legislation a “disgrace … which nobody in Congress has read because of its length and complexity.”

The House and Senate, on bipartisan roll calls, approved the 5,593-page bill Monday, the same day it was introduced. Before you can say it, let me: There was no time for all the lawmakers to digest everything in the bill before they voted on it.

The first round of COVID relief — that CARES Act Congress passed in March — sent $1,200 checks to eligible individuals.

Now, with suffering continuing and the need still great, the legislation included another direct payment, only this time it’s a $600 payment to someone making less than $75,000 — or $2,400 for a family of four.

There is also a provision to allow these payments to households whose members have “mixed” immigration status. These people were not allowed to get the cash in the first round of payments. Now they can. Republicans agreed to this.

This was never a major deal breaker. It might have been if Trump made a fuss about it.

But he didn’t until Tuesday night.

“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 Americans are given,” said Trump.

That $1,800 figure is not correct.

Trump named a string of nations getting foreign assistance and detailed appropriations for the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian and even $25 million to combat Asian carp.

We in Chicago take the problem of invasive species into Lake Michigan very seriously — even as Trump, anxious to mock, didn’t know what he was talking about.

As Rep. Adam Kinzinger said in a tweet, “The irony” is that Trump is “conflating the omnibus (normal govt spending that went through committee) with the Covid bill.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., was in a group of eight senators — four from each party — who met in recent weeks and were able to end the months long deadlock over coronavirus legislation, clearing the way for the top leaders to cut the final deal.

Or so we thought.


About the author:

Lynn Sweet is the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times. She appears frequently on CNN and other outlets as an analyst. Sweet has a master’s from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and an undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley. She also attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Sweet is a former fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. Sweet is in Northwestern University’s Medill Hall of Achievement and was named by Washingtonian Magazine as one of the capital’s “50 Top Journalists.”

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