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Following his last-minute threat to reject a federal spending bill that includes a $900bn coronavirus relief package, millions of people will lose unemployment aid on 26 December along with one-time $600 direct payments without Donald Trump’s signature, after he argued Congress had prioritised foreign aid over larger checks to Americans.
But the president conflated the aid package with the larger omnibus spending bill, which includes the same budget that the president requested and that the appropriations committee in the GOP-controlled Senate supported months ago.
On Monday, 128 of 195 House Republicans voted to support the budget.
Foreign aid in the bill does not come from coronavirus relief but from a larger government spending package, which the administration negotiated.
On Wednesday, before he left the White House for Christmas in Florida, the president called the legislation a “disgrace” and demanded Congress "immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items” from the bill.
“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, we will get it done,” he said from the White House.
After arguing for larger direct payments for months, Democrats leveraged the president’s demands for $2,000 in direct payments to bring Republicans back to the table, but Republicans rejected the proposal on Thursday, defying the president.
"If the president is serious about the $2,000 direct payments, he must call on House Republicans to end their obstruction,” House peaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement on Thursday.
She added: “House and Senate Democrats have repeatedly fought for bigger checks for the American people, which House and Senate Republicans have repeatedly rejected – first, during our negotiations when they said that they would not go above $600 and now, with this act of callousness on the floor.”
Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy accused Democrats of “suffering from selective hearing” and ignoring the president’s demand to “reexamine tax dollars wasted overseas while so many Americans are struggling at home.”
But congressman McCarthy and the administration supported those very same budget requests.
California Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell fired back: “Is this a joke? YOU voted for this three days ago. And the ‘foreign aid’ was what Trump sent over in his budget. You’re fooling no one and hurting everyone."
“FYI: Trump requested the foreign aid in his own 2021 budget proposal. Don’t lie to the people,” said Minnesota Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
“Sending $2,000 checks was doable in a Pro forma session, now we are recessed until Monday unable to proceed,” she said. “Remember, people are suffering while you comfortably enjoy your Christmas.”