After Trump Signs Stimulus Bill, Democrats Aim for Higher Relief Checks

A limousine displaying images of various U.S. presidents sits unattended along Southern Boulevard as the presidential motorcade passes through West Palm Beach, Florida, Sunday. (Reuters/Tom Brenner)

Democrats in the Congress on Monday will try to push through expanded $2,000 pandemic relief payments for Americans after President Donald Trump backed down from a fight with lawmakers that could have shut down the federal government.

In a sudden reversal late on Sunday, Trump signed into law a $2.3 trillion pandemic aid and spending package, restoring unemployment benefits to millions of Americans and providing funds to keep government agencies running.

Trump retreated from his threat to block the bill, which was approved by Congress last week, after he came under pressure from lawmakers on both sides.

The president had last week called the bill a “disgrace” and demanded Congress change it to increase the size of stimulus checks for struggling Americans from $600 to $2,000 while also cutting some other spending.

It was not immediately clear why Trump changed his mind on the stimulus package.

Despite that, Democratic lawmakers who have a majority in the House of Representatives and have long wanted $2,000 relief checks hope to use a rare point of agreement with Trump to advance the proposal – or at least put Republicans on record against it – in a vote on Monday.

The issue appears unlikely to gain traction in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Many economists agree the financial aid in the bill should be bigger to get the economy moving again but say that immediate support for Americans hit by coronavirus lockdowns is still urgently needed.

Unemployment benefits being paid out to about 14 million people through pandemic programs lapsed on Saturday but will be restarted now that Trump has signed the bill.

The package includes $1.4 trillion in spending to fund government agencies. If Trump had not signed the legislation, then a partial government shutdown would have begun on Tuesday that would have put millions of government workers’ incomes at risk.

Global share prices ticked up in response to the news that Trump had signed the stimulus plan and backed away from a government spending crisis.

U.S. S&P futures and Japan’s Nikkei index gained about 0.4%, and spot gold prices rose nearly 1%.

Also on Monday, lawmakers will seek to override Trump‘s recent veto of a $740-billion bill setting policy for the Defense Department. If successful, it would be the first veto override of Trump‘s presidency.

Trump said he vetoed the legislation, which has passed every year since 1961, because he objected to liability protections for social media companies unrelated to national security and did not want to rename military bases named after generals who fought for the pro-slavery Confederacy during the Civil War.

Although his previous eight vetoes were all upheld thanks to support from Republicans, advisers said this one looked likely to be overridden. The bill passed both houses of Congress with margins greater than the two-thirds majorities that would be needed to override the president’s veto.

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