Pandemic unemployment assistance, a lifeline for 7.3 million American workers out of work because of the coronavirus, expired at midnight Sunday morning after President Donald Trump continued to resist signing the $2.3 trillion package that combines government funding with Covid-19 relief.
The bill, the result of protracted negotiations between both parties and the Trump administration that the president himself largely sat out, includes a $900 billion Covid-19 stimulus package that would extend those unemployment benefits — $114 to $357 weekly payments to unemployed gig workers and self-employed people whose business has stalled.
That package would also extend the federal eviction moratorium, which is set to expire on Dec. 31. Without an extension, millions could face an immediate housing crisis.
The legislation would also fund the federal government through September 2021. Without Trump’s signature, the government will shut down at midnight Tuesday morning.
After Congress passed the bill with large bipartisan support late last Monday, Trump threw Washington into chaos by suddenly raising an objection to the size of a new round of direct payments, which came as news to his own aides who had negotiated them with Congress. He demanded lawmakers raise to the amount to $2,000, as also criticized other elements he called “pork” included within the mammoth spending package, including routine annual foreign aid payments.
Trump reiterated his criticism of the bill Saturday, tweeting, “I simply want to get our great people $2000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill.”
The Covid-19 aid package currently includes $600 in direct payments to Americans who earned less than $75,000 in the previous tax year.
The amount represented a compromise between Democrats, who wanted larger checks, and Republicans, many of whom opposed additional direct payments.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who proposed the $600 checks and personally negotiated the stimulus package with congressional leadership, said in an interview with CNBC on Dec. 21 that Americans could see the checks quickly. That requires the president to sign the bill.
The House, where Republicans blocked Democrats from mounting a hasty vote to raise the amount of the checks to meet the president’s demand, is expected to consider on Monday a stop-gap measure to avert a federal shutdown and keep the government running until President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20.
Biden called on Trump to sign the bill in a strongly-worded statement Saturday, calling the president’s failure to do so an “abdication of responsibility” with “devastating consequences.”
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., also criticized the president for not signing the bill Sunday, saying, “Time’s running out.”
Trump should sign the bill “because you don’t get everything you want, even if you’re the president of the United States,“ he said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
If the bill was simply the standalone government funding measure, Toomey said, “I would almost certainly be voting against that.”
“But I think the Covid relief measures are really, really important,” Toomey said, adding, “people are out of work, certainly through no fault of their own. I think we need the extended unemployment benefits, I think we need another round of the PPP loans, which are really grants to small businesses to keep their workforce part of their business, and time’s running out.”
Toomey, who said he disagreed with $2,000 checks, added that he remained hopeful Trump would approve the bill and avert a shutdown.
“I think the president has not explicitly said he’s going to veto this bill, I take that as a hopeful sign,” Toomey said. “I think as he leaves office, 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 to expire. So I think the best thing to do, as I say, is sign this and make then make the case for subsequent legislation.”
Trump has been spending the holiday at Mar-a-Lago, his private resort in Palm Beach, Florida, and on Sunday visited his golf course, Palm Beach International Golf Club, according to the traveling press pool report.