Under pressure from all sides and after delaying for almost a week, US President Donald Trump finally signed a huge $900 billion aid bill on Sunday, in a long-sought boost for millions of Americans and businesses damaged by the coronavirus pandemic. The package is brought in as coronavirus emergency response and relief is part of a larger spending bill that will avoid a government shutdown on Tuesday with Trump's signature.
"I am signing this bill to restore unemployment benefits, stop evictions, provide rental assistance, add money for PPP, return our airline workers back to work, add substantially more money for vaccine distribution, and much more," the president statement from his Christmas vacation at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Trump refused to sign the relief package for days, approved strongly by Congress following months of negotiation, calling it a "disgrace." Two federal unemployment benefit programs approved in March were part of an initial Covid-19 relief plan that expired at midnight on Saturday, separating an estimated 12 million Americans, according to The Century Foundation think tank. The relief package, approved by Congress on December 21, would extend those benefits as well as others set to expire in the coming days.
But in his statement, Trump continued to persist for the $600 direct payments to US taxpayers explained in the bill to be more than tripled, and claimed the legislation included too much excess spending on unrelated programs. He has not revealed why he waited for days as the bill was already approved to make his views known.
President-elect Joe Biden, anticipated to be sworn in January 20 after beating Trump in November's election, had warned of "destructive repercussions" if the president continued his refusal on Saturday.
Frenzy and Affliction
Before the bill was signed, some Republicans urged Trump to change course earlier on Sunday.
"I understand he wants to be remembered for advocating for big checks, but the danger is he'll be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior if he allows this to expire," Republican Senator Pat Toomey told on Sunday.
Democrats in Congress aspired to approve a measure to increase the direct payments in line with what Trump wants, but Republicans blocked it on Thursday. It was seen generally as a theatrical move with little hope of passage made to expose the crevice between Republicans and the outgoing president.
"What the president is doing right now is unbelievably cruel" Senator Bernie Sanders said earlier on Sunday. "Millions of people are losing their extended unemployment benefits," he said. "They are going to be expelled from their apartments because the ousting embargo is ending." Sanders said increased direct payments could be approved in the coming days.