Donald Trump has suggested he may not sign the bipartisan $900bn pandemic relief package that Congress passed on Monday night.
Trump complained in a video that the bill delivered too much money to foreign countries and not enough to Americans. The bill has enough votes to override a veto should Trump decide to take that step.
He said he wanted Congress to “send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a Covid relief package,” and called the bill a “disgrace”.
The bill provides for a $600 payment to most Americans but Trump said he is asking Congress to increase the “ridiculously low” figure to $2,000, or $4,000 for a couple. However, it was Republican lawmakers who resisted higher payments.
“House Democrats have fought for months to provide relief to the American people, which Republicans rejected at every turn,” said the House majority leader, Steny Hoyer. “Now that the president has agreed to direct payments of $2,000, we will ask for unanimous consent to pass a bill this week to give Americans this assistance.”
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, chimed in: “Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the president wanted for direct checks. At last, the president has agreed to $2,000 … Let’s do it!”
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also expressed support for approving the $2,000 direct payments.
The relief package is part of a larger omnibus bill to fund government operations for the coming fiscal year. It is unclear whether he misunderstood, as he complained that money had been various government programs, and said he was “asking Congress to get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation and to send me a suitable bill”.
The president has signed a stopgap bill to extend government funding for two weeks.
It is unclear why he is now resisting the relief package; his treasury secretary helped negotiate the package, and the administration knew what was in the bill before Congress voted on it.
Congress passed the relief package on Monday after months of gridlock. The long-sought legislation would provide cash to businesses and individuals, as well as resources for schools, vaccination efforts and government agencies.
While many lawmakers complained about being given little time to read the bill, they have overwhelmingly voted for it as local businesses and constituents seek economic relief from the pandemic.
Both legislative chambers worked deep into the night to pass the legislation, with the House of Representatives first approving it and the Senate following several hours later in bipartisan votes.
The relief bill would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses, restaurants and theaters and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.
Earlier in the day, Biden applauded lawmakers for their work. He described the package as far from perfect, “but it does provide vital relief at a critical time”.
He also said more relief would be needed in the months ahead. “We have our first hint and glimpse of bipartisanship,” Biden said. “In this election, the American people made it clear they want us to reach across the aisle and work together.”