Congress scrambles to avert shutdown after Trump’s stimulus demands

Congressional leaders scramble to avoid a catastrophic government shutdown days before the spending deadline after President Donald Trump rejected their $ 900 billion stimulus deal, which would bring relief to millions of Americans.
And with Trump single-handedly stopping hundreds of billions of dollars in coronavirus aid, some Republicans are even telling him to drop the matter.
"The best way out is for the president to sign the bill, and I still hope he does," said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), GOP Leader No. 4, Thursday. But Blunt admitted that he "had no idea" what Trump was going to do.
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The scramble on Capitol Hill, largely empty for the holidays, includes a last-minute offer from the House Democrats to roughly triple the size of Americans' stimulus checks to meet Trump's demands. House Republicans blocked efforts Thursday morning, resulting in a dramatic showdown in Congress next week that could bring the president into conflict with members of his own party.
Congress sent the massive bill to Mar-a-Lago on Thursday afternoon, where it is awaiting Trump's signature.
The uncertainty surrounding the package is the latest chapter in the chaos in the Trump presidency, with several last minute closings and deals completed. The eleventh hour demands of the president took lawmakers and executives by surprise, especially since Trump left almost all negotiations to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who did not force the $ 2,000 economic check now targeted by the president.
Both parties are now stranded with a Trump-powered crisis on Christmas Eve - unsure how to provide quick relief, let alone fund the government, to millions of Americans suffering from the pandemic-hit economy.
"Perhaps the only mistake was to believe President and Secretary Mnuchin when we were told that the bill would be signed by the president when it passed," House majority chairman Steny Hoyer told reporters Thursday. when asked how they got there at this point.
Senior officials, including spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi and Mnuchin, will privately discuss contingency plans such as an emergency bill if Trump officially veto the measure by Monday, when funding runs out. However, it's not clear how long this stopgap deal would take - or whether Trump would sign it if it didn't make any of the changes he was calling for, like cuts in foreign aid, according to people familiar with the discussions.
"This is Christmas Eve," said Hoyer. "Surely the President of the United States, whether in Mar-a-Lago or elsewhere, should empathize with the pain and suffering and worry and deep fear that the American people feel."
Back at the White House, most of the helpers still don't seem to know whether the president actually wants to veto the legislation. In recent weeks, the president has focused far more on futile efforts to overthrow the November 3rd elections than on the pandemic. RS.D.).
"This is Trump as Trump," said a former senior administration official close to the White House. “He always lets you guess. It's Trump - who knows what he's going to do? "
The White House did not respond to repeated questions about the legislation.
Meanwhile, Trump spent Thursday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida, keeping Americans in a state of uncertainty for the second day in a row. Shortly after 10 a.m., Trump hit the golf course. He is expected to stay in Florida until the new year.
A Republican near the White House said the president was unlikely to actually veto the bill, noting that he had not used the word "veto" as he had in the past. And it wouldn't be the first time Trump has threatened a veto right before signing: In 2018, Trump approved a $ 1.3 trillion spending bill, despite saying he was "dissatisfied" with it.
"It turns a pretty decent four years with a decent record into an utter disaster," said a former employee. "Most selfish thing I've ever seen."
However, Democrats fear that Trump will formally oppose the move, forcing them to quickly take a short-term funding move that can lead Congress into the early days of Joe Biden's presidency.
Earlier this week, Trump said the $ 600 direct checks should be increased to $ 2,000, describing the package as "wasteful" despite having been previously approved and requested.
Democrats - who backed bigger controls - quickly forced Republicans in Congress to block Trump's request.
The House Democrats took the floor on Thursday, suggesting increasing the direct payments to $ 2,000 instead of the $ 600 on the bill. But the Republicans rejected the move and instead offered their own proposal to reduce foreign aid in the broader spending account. Democrats refused.
"Today, on Christmas Eve morning, the Republicans of the House cruelly withdrew from the American people the $ 2,000 the president was willing to support," Pelosi said in a statement. "If the president takes the $ 2,000 direct payments seriously, he must urge the Republicans in the House to end their disability."
The house plans to return on Monday, where lawmakers will have a full vote on whether to replace the $ 2,000 checks on the bill, as Trump has called for. Democrats could also tackle a stopgap deal on spending on Monday.
But even if the $ 2,000 check move releases the house, the Senate is unlikely to take it up. Blunt predicted Thursday that the proposal would not even clear the 60 votes required to pass the chamber.
After the failed efforts of the Democrats on the floor, an emotional MP, Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) Railed against the president for blocking more relief, arguing that Trump "doesn't care about people".
"He sowed more fear. He threw kerosene in the fire," said Dingell.
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