US President Donald Trump on Sunday promised “good news” about a massive Covid-19 bill he has so far refused to sign, but did not give further details when millions of Americans fighting the pandemic faced the loss of unemployment benefits.
“Good news for Covid Relief Bill. Information to follow!” The president tweeted during his Christmas vacation at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, without elaborating.
For almost a week, Trump has refused to sign the $ 900 billion aid package that was overwhelmingly approved by Congress after months of negotiations, calling it a “shame.”
Two federal unemployment benefit programs approved in March as part of a first Covid Assistance plan expired at midnight on Saturday, reducing an estimated 12 million Americans, according to think tank The Century Foundation.
The delay also threatened to provoke a suspension by the government until Tuesday, as the aid package is part of a larger spending bill, although lawmakers could approve another temporary extension to keep the government open.
The relief package, adopted by Congress on December 21, would extend these benefits as well as others that will expire in the coming days.
But Trump has pushed for the $ 600 direct payments to U.S. taxpayers listed in the bill to more than triple, arguing that the legislation included too much surplus spending for independent programs.
He did not say why he waited until the bill was already approved to make his views known.
Elected President Joe Biden, who was due to be sworn in on January 20 after beating Trump in the November election, warned of “devastating consequences” on Saturday if the president continued his refusal.
‘Chaos and misery’
Earlier on Sunday, some Republicans called on Trump to change course, noting that the bill was the result of a careful compromise.
“I understand he wants to be remembered for advocating for big checks, but the danger is that he will be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior if he lets this go,” Republican Sen. Pat Toomey told Fox News on Sunday .
Trump has not explicitly said whether he will veto the bill.
Congress could, in theory, override its veto, although it is unclear whether Republicans would choose to defy him to that degree.
Another option would be for Trump to simply do nothing, resulting in a “pocket veto” as Congress’s current session is due to end and a new one will begin on January 3.
Democrats in Congress on Thursday sought to approve a measure to increase direct payments in line with what Trump wants, but Republicans blocked it.
It was largely seen as a theatrical move with little hope of passage intended to reveal the gap between the Republicans and the outgoing president.
Senator Bernie Sanders said on Sunday that “what the president is doing right now is incredibly cruel.”
“Many millions of people are losing their extended unemployment benefits,” he told ABC.
“They will be evicted from their apartments to end the abolition of the moratorium.”
Sanders urged Trump to sign the bill, saying increased direct payments could be approved in the coming days.