COVID aid at risk as lawmakers block Trump's changes

U.S. lawmakers on Thursday blocked attempts to alter a $2.3 trillion coronavirus aid and government spending package, rejecting President Donald Trump’s demand for extensive changes and leaving benefits for millions of Americans at risk.

TRUMP/WEDNESDAY: “I am asking Congress to amend this bill."

House Democrats tried to boost the direct payments to Americans from $600 to $2000, acting on Trump's request, but the president's fellow Republicans blocked that effort.

Republicans countered with a motion to change the amount of foreign aid included in the package, which Democrats blocked.

Speaking to reporters after the House adjourned for the day, Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer urged the president to sign the bill as is, rather than leave millions of Americans in the lurch.

"This is Christmas Eve. Surely the President of the United States, whether he is in Mar-a-Lago or any place else, ought to empathize with the pain and suffering and apprehension and deep angst that the American people are feeling this Christmas Eve and sign this bill."

Trump said nothing to reporters as he and First Lady Melania Trump set out for his Mar-a-Lago home on Wednesday...

REPORTER, OFF-CAMERA: "What do you say to those waiting for COVID aid?"

...and was seen golfing in Florida on Thursday.

If Trump does not sign the package into law, unemployment benefits for about 14 million Americans will lapse starting on Saturday and new stimulus checks, which could go out as soon as next week, would be delayed.

The standoff between Trump and Congress also raises the prospect of a partial government shutdown at a time when officials are trying to distribute two coronavirus vaccines – as government funding was also included in the bill.

Congress could keep operations running by passing a fourth stopgap funding bill before midnight on Monday. To successfully do that, lawmakers would need Trump’s cooperation at a time when he is consumed by his bid to remain in office beyond Jan. 20.