President Donald Trump signaled he may not sign the $900 billion stimulus deal approved by Congress, describing parts of it as “wasteful spending” on Tuesday and creating uncertainty over its future.
“The bill they are now planning to send back to my desk is much different than anticipated,” Trump said in a video posted on his Twitter account. “I'm also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation, and to send me a suitable bill.”
President Trump then targeted the stimulus checks under the current legislation, “asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000, or $4,000 for a couple.” The direct payments are up to $600 per individual and $600 per child under the bill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) welcomed the president’s initiative to raise the amount of the payments, saying there’s support for the measure in the Democratic-controlled House.
“Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks,” she responded in a tweet on Tuesday evening. “At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent.”
The final $900 billion stimulus deal passed both chambers of Congress on Monday night with overwhelming support, with the Senate voting 92-to-6 to pass it and the House voting 359-to-53. Around $166 billion of the package will be used for the second round of direct payments.
Mnuchin applauded the deal earlier on Tuesday saying that they are “fully committed to ensuring that hardworking Americans get this vital support as quickly as possible,” in a statement.
‘The president can cause a lot of problems’
The president’s remarks come after the White House indicated the president would sign the stimulus deal, marking a sudden change in the administration’s position. Trump also said the bill didn’t contain enough funding for small businesses, especially restaurants.
“The president can cause a lot of problems,” Mark Harkins, a former congressional staffer and senior fellow at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute, told Yahoo Money. “He knows that Congress has to come back on Monday to vote on his veto of the Defense authorization bill. He can demand a standalone bill to increase the payment.”
The president didn’t say whether he’ll veto the bill, which would then require a two-thirds vote in both chambers of Congress for the bill to become law. Complicating matters is that the bill is attached to another piece of legislation to keep the government funded. If Trump doesn’t sign the conjoined pair, the government faces a potential shutdown on Dec. 28.
Another possibility is a “pocket veto” if the president doesn't sign the bill after 10 days and Congress adjourns during that period, then the bill doesn’t become law and can't be overridden by Congress. If Congress remains in session during that 10-day period and Trump doesn't sign, the bill becomes law without the president’s signature.
“It’s all posturing,” Aaron Fritschner, communications director for Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), told Yahoo Money. “If he really wanted this he would have intervened when it was being negotiated before the White House signed off on his behalf and we could have gotten some of these things. He doesn’t really care about how this affects people, he’s still campaigning because he thinks, wrongly, that he can remain president.”