WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — On Christmas Eve, lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives blocked attempts to alter a $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief and government spending package.
The move leaves the bill’s status in doubt after President Donald Trump demanded extensive changes to the legislation, including an increase in stimulus checks for Americans from $600 to $2,000. House Democrats favored the bigger stimulus checks, but couldn’t move forward without unanimous consent.
“Believe it or not, Democrats agree with the president. At least to the extent that we need to sign this bill now. $600 is certainly not enough for individuals who have been struggling these past 7 months. It isn’t enough to provide the boost our economy needs,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Thursday.
Trump’s fellow Republicans, who oppose the higher amount, blocked the stimulus check effort.
Republicans then moved to change the amount of foreign aid included in the package, seeking to address another one of Trump’s complaints. Democrats blocked that request. Then the House adjourned for the day.
Pelosi said on Thursday she will summon lawmakers back to work on Monday to vote on a bill that increases COVID-19 stimulus payments to $2,000.
“Today, on Christmas Eve morning, House Republicans cruelly deprived the American people of the $2,000 that the President agreed to support,” Pelosi said in a statement. “If the President is serious about the $2,000 direct payments, he must call on House Republicans to end their obstruction.”
Pelosi urged Trump to sign legislation that funds the U.S. government and offers COVID-19 relief funding to American businesses and families.
“To vote against this bill is to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny them the relief they need,” she said.
House Republicans did not publicly comment Thursday, but House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy issued a statement Wednesday via Twitter that said: “Democrats appear to be suffering from selective hearing. They’ve conveniently ignored @realDonaldTrump‘s call to reexamine tax dollars wasted overseas while so many Americans are struggling at home.”
So, how did we get here?
On Wednesday, Pelosi had suggested a plan of action to amend the COVID-19 relief bill based on Trump’s request for larger stimulus checks.
“Democrats would go to the Floor and ask for Unanimous Consent to bring up a standalone bill to increase the payments. To do so requires the agreement of the Republican Leader. This agreement is necessary in the House and in the Senate,” Pelosi wrote.
She continued: “If the President truly wants to join us in $2,000 payments, he should call upon Leader McCarthy to agree to our Unanimous Consent request.”
McCarthy said in a statement Tuesday that “Republicans have fought to provide Americans the support they need during these challenging times, but Nancy Pelosi waited until the final hour to work with Republicans and President Trump to develop common sense solutions that could have become law months ago.”
Republicans have been reluctant to spend more on pandemic relief and only agreed to the big year-end package as time dwindled for a final deal.
“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 Tuesday.
What happens now?
It’s worth noting that Trump, who will leave office on Jan. 20 when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in, did not use the word “veto” in his video statement Tuesday. He has not commented about the bill since then.
If Trump vetoes the bill, the 92-6 vote in the Senate and the 359-53 vote in the House are both well over the two-thirds majority needed to override it.
If Trump does nothing, the bill becomes law 10 days after it arrives on his desk in a “pocket veto.”
The House is scheduled to reconvene Monday to address the president’s objections and also his veto of the defense bill.
If the bill is amended, doing so by midnight Monday could be very difficult. That’s when the federal government shuts down. It took months for the parties to agree to the thousands of elements in not only the coronavirus aid part, but the $1.4 trillion agreement to fund much of the U.S. government.
Congress could keep operations running by passing a fourth stopgap funding bill before midnight on Monday.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.