Biden Calls on Trump to Sign COVID-19 Relief Bill Amid Battle Over Direct Payments

December 26, 2020 Updated: December 26, 2020

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has called on President Donald Trump to sign the $2.3 trillion spending package, which would provide $600 stimulus checks to most Americans.

The funding bill, which passed both houses of Congress in a bipartisan fashion, has been the center of attention in recent days after Trump urged lawmakers to increase the stimulus checks to $2,000 per person. The president slammed Congress for spending money on what he described as “unnecessary” programs and foreign aid, and “wasteful items” while Americans continue to struggle due to pandemic lockdowns.

The bill was sent to Trump’s desk for signature on Christmas Eve after a unanimous consent filed by House Democrats to increase the payments was blocked by Republicans, and a counter request to revisit foreign spending filed by House Republicans was rejected by Democrats.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed on Thursday that she would call House members back into session on Monday to vote on the $2,000 direct payments.

On Saturday, Biden weighed in on the issue, characterizing Trump’s lack of commitment to sign the bill as an “abdication of responsibility.”

“It is the day after Christmas, and millions of families don’t know if they’ll be able to make ends meet because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority,” Biden said in a statement.

He underscored a number of consequences if the bill does not pass the final stage of approval before the extension of the temporary funding bill expires.

“Today, about 10 million Americans will lose unemployment insurance benefits. In just a few days, government funding will expire, putting vital services and paychecks for military personnel at risk. In less than a week, a moratorium on evictions expires, putting millions at risk of being forced from their homes over the holidays,” Biden said.

“Delay means more small businesses won’t survive this dark winter because they lack access to the lifeline they need, and Americans face further delays in getting the direct payments they deserve as quickly as possible to help deal with the economic devastation caused by COVID-19. And while there is hope with the vaccines, we need funding to be able to distribute and administer them to millions of Americans, including frontline health care workers.”

Earlier in the day, Trump explained his reasons for his inaction on the bill, saying “I simply want to get our great people $2,000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill. Also, stop the billions of dollars in ‘pork’.”

The president is not the only person who is concerned over the questionable spending and the $600 stimulus in the pandemic relief and omnibus bill. Other lawmakers have joined in his concerns.

“It would be 100% correct for @realDonaldTrump to veto this corrupt spending bill. I voted no—and sent a letter a week ago warning the bill would be garbage. It is. #StandUpForAmerica,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) wrote in a statement.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who voted for the bill on Dec. 21, called Trump’s request “reasonable demands.”

“Both are reasonable demands, and I hope Congress is listening. The biggest winner would be the American people,” Graham wrote in a statement.

The legislative text of the over 5,500-page bill was given to House lawmakers just hours before a scheduled vote. Lawmakers griped at the lack of time to read the massive spending bill.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being sent as forms of aid to foreign countries and other forms of American engagement abroad, according to the omnibus bill. This spending has come under intense scrutiny in recent days.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan