By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday are aiming to win a quick review of legislation providing $ 2,000 in direct payments to Americans as part of a coronavirus economic relief initiative after President Donald Trump unexpectedly insisted on the provision.
The stakes in this long-shot bid are enormous, as millions of Americans are desperately awaiting some sort of new help from Washington in a COVID-19 pandemic that is sprouting out of control in the United States and other nations.
Late Monday, Congress overwhelmingly approved a $ 892 billion emergency bill for coronavirus, which includes a one-time payment of $ 600 to individuals to help them cope with a pandemic-driven US economy.
The support was linked to $ 1.4 trillion in funding to keep the federal government in operation this fiscal year ending September 30, 2021.
But despite expectations, Trump hinted on Tuesday that he might veto the giant legislation if direct payments were not raised to $ 2,000 per tonne. Person, and if a number of unrelated public spending projects, including foreign aid, did not become jettison.
Trump, who was awaiting receipt of the $ 2.3 trillion bill from Congress, did not explicitly say he would veto the bill in its current form.
But with his warning, he put coronavirus aid in limbo as well as the federal government’s ability to operate normally beyond next Monday when the existing money runs out.
In a challenge to congressional Republicans working to keep coronavirus aid bills below $ 1 trillion, Democrats are happy to include Trump’s demands for greater stimulus controls for Americans.
On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted: “Mr. President, sign the bill to keep the government open! Calls on McConnell and McCarthy to agree to the Democratic unanimous request for consent to the direct payment of $ 2,000! This can be done at noon on Christmas Eve!”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the two top Republicans in Congress, and their aides have been silent on Trump’s demands for greater control.
But McCarthy, in a letter late Wednesday to his fellow Republicans, described a backlash his party planned to make on Thursday that would seek changes to the foreign aid component of the spending bill.
Each side may end up blocking the other’s proposal in a stand-off that leaves the bill passed Monday unchanged.
Using a procedural maneuver that was rarely used for major legislation, Democrats were expected early Thursday to try to hit the $ 2,000 payment initiative through Parliament in lightning speed with unanimity. But to win, all House members in the 435-seat chamber had to come together by not objecting to the maneuver.
If the Democrats’ gambit fails, it would be up to Trump to either sign the total $ 2.3 trillion in coronavirus assistance and state funding in the law or veto it.
Congress supporters may have the right to vote to override a veto. If not, Congress and the White House would be in a potentially chaotic showdown just weeks before Trump is replaced by elected President Joe Biden, a Democrat, on January 20th.
To avoid a shutdown of the government, Congress was able to keep operations going by adopting a fourth funding bill for the stopgap before midnight Monday. For this option to work, lawmakers would need Trump’s cooperation at a time when he is still devoured by his loss to Biden in the Nov. 3 presidential election.
However, the stopgap bill does not include coronavirus help.
In another showdown with Trump, Congress wants to override its veto on Wednesday for a bill that would allow U.S. military programs. The House aims to vote Monday, and the Senate can follow up as early as Tuesday.