The clock is ticking toward a potential shutdown of U.S. federal agencies as an omnibus spending bill aimed at funding the government remains unsigned. Without President Donald Trump’s signature or passage of a stopgap measure to fund operations, a partial shutdown begins shortly after midnight Monday.
The president also failed to sign a critical pandemic relief and government funding package before midnight Saturday, meaning increased unemployment benefits and eviction protections expired at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.
Trump had sharply criticized the legislation earlier this week and on Saturday indicated his continued objections to it.
Trump tweeted, “I simply want to get our great people $2000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill. Also, stop the billions of dollars in ‘pork.’”
I simply want to get our great people $2000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill. Also, stop the billions of dollars in “pork”.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 26, 2020
Trump’s support for the larger checks has been seen as a rebuke to members of his Republican party, which had resisted Democratic efforts to negotiate larger payments.
Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania told the “Fox News Sunday” show, “I understand he wants to be remembered for advocating for big checks, but the danger is he’ll be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior if he allows this (coronavirus relief bill) to expire.”
A long-time Trump critic, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, told ABC’s “This Week” show, “What the president is doing right now is unbelievably cruel. Many millions of people are losing their extended unemployment benefits. They’re going to be evicted from their apartments. There’s money in that bill.”
Fourteen million Americans will lose unemployment benefits, according to Labor Department data.
Democratic President-elect Joe Biden called on Trump to sign the bill.
“This abdication of responsibility has devastating consequences. … This bill is critical. It needs to be signed into law now,” Biden, who is spending the year-end holidays in his home state of Delaware, said in a statement.
The president is spending time at his Florida resort along the Atlantic Ocean as Democrats and Republicans wait to see whether he will sign the $2.3 trillion spending legislation, which includes $900 billion for coronavirus relief and the remainder for government spending through next September. The bill has been flown from Washington to his Mar-a-Lago club to be available if he decides to sign it into law.
Trump has not specifically threatened to veto the bill. But he surprised lawmakers in both parties by calling it a “disgrace” after it had been passed in the House and Senate, capping months of negotiations in which Trump was little involved.
Congress is planning to return to work Monday, interrupting its usual Christmas recess, and could take up a stopgap measure to extend government funding for a few days or weeks while the impasse is resolved.
House members are also scheduled to vote Monday to override Trump’s veto of a $740 billion bill authorizing the country’s defense programs. If the House vote passes, the Senate could vote on the measure as early as Tuesday. It requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers to override a presidential veto.
Trump has criticized the defense bill on several fronts, arguing without explanation that the bill benefits China, and has demanded the removal of language that allows for the renaming of military bases that honor Confederate leaders who seceded from the United States in the 1860s. He has also demanded the addition of a provision making it easier to sue social media companies over content posted by their users.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s veto “an act of staggering recklessness that harms our troops.”
Pelosi, however, has embraced Trump’s call for $2,000 direct payments to all but top-earning American workers, and on Thursday used a legislative maneuver to force Republicans to defy Trump by blocking the increase.
Pelosi has announced plans to force another vote on the issue Monday. It is liable to be passed in the House, where Democrats have a majority, but unlikely to progress in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The White House declined to share details of the president’s schedule during his Christmas holiday. It only said, “During the holiday season, President Trump will continue to work tirelessly for the American people. His schedule includes many meetings and calls.”
Nevertheless, Trump has been photographed playing golf at his Florida course near Mar-a-Lago. Reports say he was joined on the course Christmas Day by his close ally, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Trump also spent Sunday on his West Palm Beach golf course.