President Donald Trump announced via a video Tuesday evening that he doesn't support the sweeping year-end bill combining new coronavirus relief with fiscal 2021 government funding.
Trump didn't directly threaten to veto the legislation, which passed both the House and Senate by overwhelming margins. But Trump called in the video for increasing the bill's stimulus checks from the "ridiculously low" $600 to $2,000 per person and eliminating what he considered wasteful spending. Administration officials had signed off on the bill.
The legislation would provide $13 billion in agriculture relief, including a third round of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, plus another $13 billion in nutrition assistance, including a six-month, 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., challenged Republicans over Trump's attack on the bill. They "repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks," tweeted Pelosi. "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!"
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Trump to sign the legislation. "We spent months trying to secure $2000 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," Schumer tweeted.
The bill passed the Senate and House by margins far larger than the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. The Senate approved the bill, 92-6. The House, which considered the legislation in two parts, passed the COVID aid portion, 359-53.
Brendan Buck, a former House Republican leadership aide, said Trump's demand puts Republicans in a bind. "Of course the bill passed with way more votes than necessary to override a veto, so there’s not really too much drama here. But, man, you’re not so happy if you’re an R who voted for the bill he’s now dumping on," Buck tweeted.
If Trump does veto the bill, Congress could be forced to return to Washington as soon as Monday to deal with it. A one-week continuing resolution that was intended to keep the government running until Trump had time to sign the 5,593-page funding package expires on Monday.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa., told reporters Tuesday morning that senators have already been notified that they might have to return next week to address his veto of a defense authorization bill. Trump vetoed the bill Tuesday afternoon.