President Trump throws wrench into COVID-19 relief by saying he won't sign bill

The president says he will only sign it if Americans receive $2,000 payments.

December 22, 2020, 9:16 PM

President Donald Trump is giving both Democrats and Republicans a headache on Tuesday after the shocking announcement on Twitter that he will not sign the COVID-19 relief bill negotiated in the Senate and House for months. He had been expected to sign the bipartisan deal this week.

The president asks that the bill be reworked in order to give each American a $2,000 stimulus check instead of the $600 that was negotiated. Democrats had called for more money, but Republicans pushed back on the higher amount.

The bill was crafted by Senate Republicans, led by Trump ally Mitch McConnell, and done in tandem with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, one of Trump's closest Cabinet members.

"Congress started negotiations on a new package to get urgently needed help to the American people; it's taken forever," Trump said in a video posted to Twitter. "However, the bill they are now planning to send back to my desk is much different than anticipated. It really is a disgrace."

Trump detailed his complaints about the bill in the four-minute video, however, most of his issues were related to the $1.4 trillion spending bill that funds the government through 2021, and not the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill. The two were passed together as one package, but nearly everything he takes issue with in the video is related to the spending deal and not the COVID-19 relief bill.

"The $900 billion package provides hardworking taxpayers with only $600 each in relief payments and not enough money is given to small businesses," Trump said.

"Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests, while sending the bare minimum to the American people who needed it wasn't their fault," Trump said, though the funding he cites was largely part of the spending bill, not the relief bill. "It was China's fault, not their fault. I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000, or $4,000 for a couple."

In negotiations with Republicans, Nancy Pelosi said Democrats had repeatedly been denied information on what amount the president supported. The video posted Tuesday night drew immediate support for $2,000 from the House speaker. It was unlikely to draw such enthusiasm from members of the president's own party.

"Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks," Pelosi tweeted. "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!"

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer echoed Pelosi and said Democrats would be willing to agree to the $2,000 checks.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer pushed for Trump to sign the bill as is: "We spent months trying to secure $2000 checks but Republicans blocked it. Trump needs to sign the bill to help people and keep the government open and we're glad to pass more aid Americans need."

"Maybe Trump can finally make himself useful and get Republicans not to block it again," he said.

PHOTO: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., walks from the Senate floor as both chambers of Congress are aimed to pass the COVID-19 package in a marathon session on Capitol Hill, Dec. 21, 2020.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., walks from the Senate floor as both chambers of Congress are aimed to pass the COVID-19 package in a marathon session on Capitol Hill, Dec. 21, 2020.
Ken Cedeno/Reuters

In a relatively rare move, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., broke with Trump, tweeting that the COVID-19 relief measures passed by Congress Monday night should be signed into law as soon as possible.

"The #COVID19 package, while imperfect, will save jobs and lives. The sooner the bill becomes law -- the better," Graham tweeted. "It will allow millions of businesses to avoid bankruptcy, deliver vaccines even faster, help those unemployed and provide money for families who are struggling. Relief is on the way as soon as the bill becomes law."

McConnell has yet to comment on Trump's protestations around the relief bill.

Government funding expires in a week if he doesn't sign the bill into law.

Lawmakers passed the bill late Monday night and have largely left Washington for the holidays. However, if House Democrats pushed it, they could hold a pro forma session on Christmas Eve, which would require only one Democrat to show and allow it to pass unanimously. However, that would likely be rejected by a Republican -- despite being in opposition to the president.

Both chambers passed the current bill with an overwhelming majority of support. It passed in the House, 359-53, and in the Senate, 92-6.

In fact, Mnuchin already promised the $600 direct payments would begin going out next week.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks during the Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit, Dec. 8, 2020, in Washington, D.C.
President Donald Trump speaks during the Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit, Dec. 8, 2020, in Washington, D.C.
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The House and Senate could easily override a presidential veto, and both chambers are planning to be in Washington next week to override another veto on the National Defense Authorization Act. Trump has promised to veto the NDAA over his issues with an amendment that would strip Confederate names from military bases and because it lacks a repeal of Section 230, which deals with social media liability protections that he claims hurts Republicans.

Congress has yet to send the bill to the president's desk because it’s going through the enrollment period, which is expected to last about a couple days. However, if Congress still sends the bill to the presidents desk as is -- and he refuses to sign it -- it could become law after 10 days. If he vetoes the bill, and both chambers do not override it, the bill would go back to the drawing board and require passage by the House and Senate again.

On Monday, Mnuchin raved about the COVID-19 relief bill in an interview with CNBC, speaking approvingly of the compromise that was made to get the bill over the finish line.

"This overall bill I think is fabulous,” he said, adding, "This is a large bill and has a little bit of everything in it for everybody."

ABC News' Allison Pecorin contributed to this report.

This report was featured in the Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020, episode of “Start Here,” ABC News’ daily news podcast.

"Start Here" offers a straightforward look at the day's top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, the ABC News app or wherever you get your podcasts.

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