AP Top Stories December 23 A
Here’s the latest for Wednesday December 23rd: Trump suggests he might not sign COVID relief bill; Trump pardons 15 people; Surgeon General observes vaccine rollout in Chicago; California Gov. names Senate replacement for Kamala Harris.
This week, USA TODAY Politics focuses on the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration and the effort in Congress to get through a fresh round of COVID-19 economic relief.
Dates to watch:
Jan. 6: Congress will count and certify the electoral results in a joint session.
Jan. 20: Inauguration of Biden, who will take the oath of office.
Be sure to refresh this page often to get the latest information on the transition.
Trump’s late attack on COVID stimulus sends Congress scrambling
President Donald Trump’s surprise video posted to Twitter Tuesday night has upended the sweeping COVID-19 stimulus package it took months for Congress to pass. Trump called the deal a “disgrace.” The president urged lawmakers to increase the bill’s direct payments to Americans from the negotiated $600 per person.
“I’m asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple,” Trump said in the video.
Trump also took issue with funding provisions, like continued foreign aid and support for government-funded arts centers.
Trump’s late-stage denunciations have likely complicated the situation for Georgia Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who both face challenges in a Georgia runoff on Jan. 5. Their Democratic opponents have both said that $600 direct payments were too small, while Loeffler and Perdue did not initially support payments in the package.
Trump stopped short of saying he would veto the bill, but if he did, lawmakers would have the numbers to override it.
Trump and Democrats agree on something?
Democratic leaders were quick to voice their approval for increased direct payments to Americans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to Trump on Twitter, saying “At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 – Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!”
Among those eager to join Trump in boosting the amount of direct payments is Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a member of the so-called “squad” of progressive female members of the House that the president routinely derides as incompetent and unpatriotic.
Tlaib said she and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have already drafted language for a proposal to raise the amount.
“Me and @AOC have the amendment ready,” she tweeted. “Send the bill back, and we will put in the $2,000 we’ve been fighting for that your party has been blocking.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also voiced approval for raising the value of direct stimulus payments to Americans, noting “We spent months trying to secure $2,000 checks but Republicans blocked it. Trump needs to sign the bill to help people and keep the government open and we’re glad to pass more aid Americans need.”
The proposal has been met with less enthusiasm among members of the president’s party. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not yet issued a statement on the matter.
HHS Secretary Azar: COVID-19 vaccine ‘for every American who wants it by June 2021’
A nearly $2 billion deal announced Wednesday between the U.S. government and Pfizer and BioNTech will supply the U.S. with an additional 100 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine under a second agreement.
The drugmakers said Wednesday that they expect to deliver all the doses by July 31.
Pfizer already has a contract to supply the government with 100 million doses of the vaccine by summer 2021. The government also has the option to acquire up to an additional 400 million doses.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement that the latest deal can give people confidence “that we will have enough supply to vaccinate every American who wants it by June 2021.”
Operation Warp Speed is on track to have about 40 million doses of vaccine by the end of this month, of which about 20 million would be allocated for first vaccinations. Distribution of those doses would span into the first week of January.