After Balking, President Trump Signs COVID Relief Bill, Averts Shutdown

After five days of drama over whether the $2.3 trillion omnibus spending bill – which includes a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package – would become law, President Donald Trump finally signed it Sunday night.

The signing came a little more than 24 hours before a government shutdown would have been forced, and after nearly a week of the president denigrating the bill as inadequate.

Congress reached the agreement with wide bipartisan support last week. Then, on Tuesday, Trump announced he wouldn’t sign it unless it included $2,000 checks to American citizens.

In a statement released by the White House Sunday night, Trump said he wanted “more revisions” to cut down what he called excess spending.

“I will sign the Omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed,” the statement read. “I will send back to Congress a redlined version, item by item, accompanied by the formal rescission request to Congress insisting that those funds be removed from the bill.”.

The announcement came after his own treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, negotiated the $600 payments currently included in the bill.

Last week, Mnuchin said the $600 checks could start going out as early as Monday. It’s unclear how the delay from Trump will affect that process.

In a statement of his own, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lauded Trump for signing the package and preventing a shutdown “at a time when our nation could not have afforded one.”

In a statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the relief bill a “down payment” on what is needed “to crush the virus.” House Democrats are set to hold a floor on the House floor Monday on the potential for sending out $2,000 checks.

According to published reports, the deal includes:

  • Some $300 per week in supplement unemployment assistance, for 11 weeks. That’s half of the pandemic unemployment assistance that had been included in the original CARES Act passed back in March.
  • A $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans (at least those who made less than $75,000 last year. That’s also half the stimulus check most Americans got earlier this year.
  • Nearly $300 billion in another Paycheck Protection Program to help small businesses. This one is expected to cap eligible businesses at 300 employees.
  • Some $25 billion in rental assistance
  • Some $15 billion for theaters and other live venues
  • Some $82 billion for local schools, colleges and universities
  • Some $10 billion for child care.

The deal does not include direct aid to state or local governments, which leaves state governors frustrated. According to published reports, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week said his state was embarking on $700 million in budget reductions to try and close a reported $4 billion deficit his state faces over the next couple of years.

“What you’re saying is you don’t support police, firefighters, nurses, social workers — the very people on the front lines we care very deeply about,” Pritzker said at a news conference announcing his cuts, according to The Washington Post. “That’s what happened, and will happen, as a result of their failure.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called the decision to leave aid to state and local goverments out of the package “reckless.”

“This is about businesses that can’t meet their rent payment,” Whitmer said. This is about individuals who are unemployed … I’m sure they’re grateful … but that is nowhere near the kind of relief people are going to need after 10 months of this.

“A lot of the work that happens to meet the needs … happens from the state government, happens from local governments,” Whitmer added. “Our police, our fire, our first responders … that is really what’s at risk here and makes up the biggest part of general fund budgets of communities. It’s incredibly foolish not to include this kind of relief right now.”