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In response to Trump, Democrats try and fail to block $ 2,000 House payments

WASHINGTON – The fate of $ 900 billion in pandemic aid will remain in limbo during the Christmas recess after House Democrats attempted and failed Thursday by more than tripling the size of relief checks, then postponed the House until Monday, when they will try again.

President Trump’s implied threat on Tuesday to reject a fallback compromise that failed to raise the bill’s $ 600 direct payment checks to $ 2,000 continued to rock Congress while rocking an already faltering economic recovery. Mr Trump scampered off to his Florida home in Mar-a-Lago on Wednesday without saying another word publicly on the fate of the relief bill, leaving both sides guessing if he really intended to veto to the long-delayed measure, which includes pandemic-like aid as well as funding to keep government open last Monday.

The Democrats’ Christmas Eve bet on House floor was never supposed to pass, but party leaders hoped to put Republicans in a bind – choosing between the president’s wishes for many more largesse and their own inclinations for modest expenses.

Republicans have rejected a request from House Majority Leader Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland for unanimous consent to pass a measure responding to Mr. Trump’s demand for $ 2,000 checks. Without the support of Republican and Democratic leaders, such demands cannot be met in the House. Republicans then failed to make their own call for a review of the foreign aid provision of the spending legislation that Mr. Trump also opposed, though most of the evidence comes almost dollar for dollar from its own budget request.

President Nancy Pelosi of California, in a statement Thursday, vowed to hold a roll-call vote on direct payments legislation on Monday, saying voting against it “would negate the financial hardships families face and deny them the help they need. . “

While government funding is expected to expire at the end of the day on Monday, House lawmakers are also considering the possibility of another interim spending bill – which would be the fifth such spending measure this month – to avoid a stop, Hoyer said.

Republican leaders wondered aloud why Congress was still dealing with an issue on Christmas Eve that they said was finally put to rest on Monday night.

“There is a long list of positive things we would be talking about today if we didn’t talk about it,” Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of the Republican leadership, told fellow Republican people on Capitol Hill. “And I think it would be to the president’s benefit if we talked about his accomplishments rather than questioning late decisions in the administration.

The Pandemic Relief and Government Spending Bill, which passed both houses earlier this week with overwhelming bipartisan support, contains the first significant federal relief since April. If the president does not sign it, millions of Americans face the risk of losing access to two federal unemployment programs that were extended under the $ 2.2 trillion stimulus bill passed in March on Saturday. A series of additional relief provisions, including a moratorium on evictions, will expire at the end of the month.

Ahead of the second round of the Senate elections in Georgia, Mr. Trump also forced a tense situation for his political party, setting up yet another loyalty test for his most dedicated voters that hinges on the rejection of a 2-pack, $ 3 trillion negotiated in part by senior White House officials.

The president “doesn’t care about people,” said Representative Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, who became emotional as she recounted the calls from voters pleading for federal support over the holiday season. “He sowed more fear. He threw kerosene on a fire.

Grassroots Republicans are also expressing frustration. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, Republican of Ohio, on Wednesday night argued that House Republicans have stood with Mr. Trump for four years.

“If he thinks that going on Twitter and trashing the bill that his team negotiated and that we supported on his behalf is going to bring more people to his side in this election fiasco, I hope that ‘he’s wrong, although I guess we’ll see’. Mr Gonzalez wrote on Twitter.

On behalf of the Republicans, Representative Rob Wittman of Virginia attempted and failed Thursday to seek consideration of a separate request for a review of annual spending on foreign policy matters, as Mr. Trump had also objected how those funds were spent. (The legislation also won the support of 128 Republicans when it passed the House on Monday.)

But Republican leaders were also not particularly keen to renegotiate the spending portion of the bill. Senator Blunt said he thinks Mr. Trump is confused about the separation between the pandemic relief part of the bill and the foreign aid offered by his own administration in the government spending part. .

“Certainly the negotiated foreign aid provisions would not benefit from opening up that part of the bill, and frankly if you start opening up part of the bill, it’s hard to defend yourself from not open the whole bill. It’s taken us a long time to get to where we are. I think reopening this bill would be a mistake, ”Blunt told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

“The best way out is for the president to sign the bill, and I always hope that is what he decides.”

At a press conference following the failed motions, Mr Hoyer said House Democrats initially accepted the $ 600 checks only because Republicans negotiating the deal, including the representative of the President Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury, had insisted on this figure.

“Sir. Mnuchin suggested that a lower figure might have been appropriate,” Hoyer told reporters. When asked if it had been a mistake to link the back-up plan and the spending omnibus , given the merging of various spending provisions, Mr. Hoyer noted that “perhaps the only mistake was to believe President and Secretary Mnuchin when we were told the bill passed would be signed by the president of the United States.

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