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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 remained in limbo during an uncertain Christmas season after House Democrats attempted and failed Thursday by more than tripling the size of relief checks, then adjourned the House until Monday when they try again.

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

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

Republicans have rejected a request from House Majority Leader Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland for unanimous consent to pass stand-alone legislation to give Mr. Trump his $ 2,000 checks. Without the support of the management of both chambers, such requests cannot be accommodated by the chamber. Republicans then failed to make their own call for a review of the bipartisan foreign aid provision of spending legislation that 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 recorded vote on direct payments legislation on Monday, saying “voting against this bill denies the financial hardships families are facing. faced and deny them relief. they need.”

With government funding set to expire late Monday, House lawmakers are also considering the possibility of another interim spending bill – the fifth such spending measure this month – to prevent a shutdown, Mr Hoyer said.

Republican leaders wondered aloud why on Christmas Eve Congress was even dealing with an issue that they said was finally settled Monday night.

“It made it very difficult to talk about the tremendous progress we’ve made in health research and vaccine, what they’ve done with foreign policy, what happened with trade, especially North American commerce, ”Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, Republican No. 4, said of Mr. Trump. “There is a long list of positive things that we would talk about today if we didn’t talk about them. 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.

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.

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