COVID-19 relief package halted, Congress now in panic mode

COVID-19 relief package halted, Congress now in panic mode

With millions of Americans waiting for desperately needed COVID economic relief, a massive stimulus package remains in limbo as President Trump weighs whether to sign it into law.

On Thursday morning, House Republicans blocked a last-minute move by Democrats to increase direct payments, an effort to capitalize on President Trump’s comments that the relief payments in the newly passed legislation should be increased from $600 to $2,000.

In turn, House Democrats blocked a dueling unanimous consent request brought by Republicans that would revisit the foreign aid section of the omnibus bill.

This Christmas showdown was teed up by Trump’s comments in a video he released on Twitter Tuesday evening where he heavily criticized the relief package passed by Congress on Monday.

He slammed the legislation on a variety of fronts, including his complaint that too much money was being allocated to foreign aid and that the direct payments of $600 for qualifying Americans was too low. Instead, he argued the figure should be boosted to $2,000 per person or $4,000 per couple — even though Republican negotiators had argued for months against higher direct payments.

In a letter to House Republicans Wednesday night, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., accused Democrats of having “selective hearing” for only heeding Trump’s call for increasing stimulus payments for Americans but not for reducing expenditures on international aid. That aid is part of a larger spending package for Fiscal Year 2021 that is attached to the COVID-19 relief bill.

“They have conveniently ignored the concerns expressed by the President, and shared by our constituents, that we ought to reexamine how our tax dollars are spent overseas while so many of our neighbors at home are struggling to make ends meet,” the letter read.

In a statement Thursday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., vowed House members will return on Monday to hold a recorded vote on a stand-alone bill to increase economic impact payments to $2,000.