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President Trump abruptly reversed course Sunday night and signed a $2.3 trillion package to provide economic relief during the COVID-19 pandemic and fund the federal government though September. Republican lawmakers had spent the weekend publicly and privately urging Trump to reconsider his implicit veto threat, issued after the legislation had passed Congress early last week.
Specifically, Trump called for the $600 COVID-19 payments suggested by his negotiator, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, to be increased to $2,000, and for cuts in foreign aid from the $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill. Trump "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 to expire," Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said on Fox News Sunday.
Trump, spending the holidays at his resort and golf club in southern Florida, did not entirely give up on his demands. "In a statement he issued after signing the law, Trump released a long list of false claims and grievances," The Washington Post reports. "He said he would be sending a 'redlined' version of the bill back to Congress 'insisting that those funds be removed from the bill.'"
Trump also said Congress agreed to vote on upping the stimulus checks to $2,000 — something the House already planned to do Monday and the Senate is unlikely to consider — and start work soon on ending legal protection for tech companies and examine his claims of voter fraud. One person who interacted with Trump in Palm Beach in recent days told the Post that the president had discussed neither the unemployment benefits he allowed to lapse or the looming government shutdown, but instead "has been far more focused on his failed effort to reverse the election result, lashing out at Republicans in Congress and members of his own administration for not joining him in the fight."
"The current Congress ends in six days," Politico notes, and Trump leaves office in three weeks. House Democrats and Senate Republicans immediately suggested or stated that Congress will ignore Trump's demands.
Trump said he will hold up the foreign aid funds, passed at levels he had already approved in his budget and in many instances requested, using the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, The Wall Street Journal reports. But he can only freeze the funds for 45 days, at which point President-elect Joe Biden will be in the White House.