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Trump Signals He May Not Sign COVID-19 Relief Bill

Posted on Dec. 23, 2020

President Trump wants Congress to amend the just-passed COVID-19 relief bill, in part to increase the amount that taxpayers would receive in stimulus checks and to extend the business meal expense deduction to better help restaurants.

In a video message posted to Twitter December 22, Trump complained that the coronavirus relief and government funding bill (H.R. 133) that passed both chambers of Congress the previous day contains “wasteful spending” and doesn’t do enough to help average Americans or small businesses.

Regarding the stimulus payments, which would be set at $600 per individual under the legislation, Trump said, “I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000, or $4,000 for a couple.”

Trump also said that restaurants, many of which have gone out of business during the pandemic, weren’t given enough help in the bill. He said the two-year period for the business meal expense deduction “must be withdrawn” and that Congress should instead “terminate it at a much later date.”

“Two years is not acceptable; it’s not enough,” Trump said.

Trump suggested that he could still be around next year to negotiate another coronavirus relief bill if changes to the current bill aren’t made.

“Send me a suitable bill, or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package. And maybe that administration will be me,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a response also issued via Twitter, welcomed the idea of raising the size of the payments to families.

“Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks. At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!” Pelosi wrote.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said on Twitter that he would also like to see more money for households, but “Trump needs to sign the bill to help people and keep the government open.”

“We’re glad to pass more aid Americans need. Maybe Trump can finally make himself useful and get Republicans not to block it again,” Schumer wrote. 

The Senate is already scheduled to be in a pro forma session on December 24 and has plans to be in session on December 29 to be ready to respond to a potential Trump veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 6395). Trump has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to decide whether to sign the COVID-19 relief bill, which would push the decision right up to the end of the 116th Congress on January 2.

The bill includes IRS funding for the coming year, as well as a variety of tax measures that would allow businesses to deduct expenses paid for with Paycheck Protection Program loans, expand the employee retention credit, and extend expiring temporary tax provisions in addition to sending checks to qualifying taxpayers.

Trump’s comments seemed to catch both Republican lawmakers and his own Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, by surprise. Mnuchin had indicated that Trump would sign a December 1 proposal from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that included no money for direct economic impact payments. After additional negotiations resulted in the $600 per person payments, Mnuchin welcomed the compromise.

“People are going to see this money the beginning of next week,” Mnuchin said in a December 21 interview on CNBC. He added that the money would be “much-needed relief — and just in time for the holidays.”

Likewise, McConnell was celebrating the deal on December 21, saying, “Thanks to the particular leadership and direction of President Trump and Secretary Mnuchin, households will receive a second round of direct relief checks — $600 per adult and per child. This is just some of the aid that will be heading Americans’ way in a matter of hours.”

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