Trump signs COVID-19 relief bill

Unemployment benefits expire, future of coronavirus relief unclear

UPDATE: President Trump has signed the COVID-19 relief and government funding bill. The White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere confirms.

The bill the president signed includes $600 stimulus checks.

The White House says the president will push the Senate to increase the checks to $2,000.

“As President, I have told Congress that I want far less wasteful spending and more money going to the American people in the form of $2,000 checks per adult and $600 per child,” President Trump said in a statement.

The move provides stimulus payments to Americans and avoids a government shutdown.

“The President is sending a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed. Sending 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,” Deere said.

EARLIER VERSION:

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Unemployment benefits for millions of Americans expired overnight, as President Donald Trump refused to sign a COVID-19 relief package that would extend those benefits.

Funding for other programs is now in jeopardy and a possible government shutdown looms.

President Trump’s refusal to sign a bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill could leave thousands of Mid-Southerners without a life preserver in the new year.

Democrats and Republicans found agreement on a $900 billion dollar relief package that would pay for vaccines, provide loans to struggling small businesses, and fund the government through September.

President Trump says the $600 stimulus checks to Americans are not enough.

The president wants Congress to increase the checks to $2,000.

“It’s really a disgrace,” Trump said. “Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists, and special interests while sending the bare minimum to the American people who need it.”

WMC Political Analyst Michael Nelson says the president may be at odds with his own party, especially after Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she agrees with the president on the $2,000 stimulus checks.

“That certainly stirred up a hornet’s nest in Washington. Republicans and Democrats thought they had this settled,” said Nelson. “The question is: Will Republicans in Congress follow the president on this and vote for the $2,000, or will they stick with where they’ve been and limiting it to $600?”

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote on a measure to increase stimulus checks to $2,000 on Monday.

House Republicans blocked a previous effort to increase the payments last week.

Tennessee U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn was one of only six Republican senators who voted against the COVID-19 relief bill.

Blackburn said while the bill provides “crucial help” to Tennesseans, it contains items she cannot support.

“The legislation we passed today will support vaccine development and distribution, assist schools and universities, and provide crucial help to Tennessee small businesses,” said Blackburn. “However, I cannot support nearly $2.4 trillion in spending that will make recovery even harder. I have serious concerns with provisions buried in the 5,593 page bill, such as expanded visas, Pell grants for prisoners, and households with illegal aliens receiving economic impact payments. For these reasons, I voted no on passage of this legislation.”

Last week, West Tennessee Republican Congressman David Kustoff explained why he supports the COVID relief bill.

“While our system is not perfect, this legislation funds important priorities that provide relief to West Tennessee businesses, healthcare workers, and struggling Americans,” Kustoff said. “I look forward to President Trump signing this legislation into law and giving our nation much-needed relief.”

But the president’s refusal to sign the bill caused unemployment benefits to expire this weekend and it could lead to a partial government shutdown on Tuesday.

President-elect Joe Biden has joined in, urging the president to sign the bipartisan relief bill.

Biden called Trump’s refusal to sign the bill an “abdication of responsibility” with “devastating consequences.”

“This bill is critical,” said Biden. “It needs to be signed into law now.”

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