WASHINGTON: Republicans on Thursday blocked an effort to amend the hard-won pandemic relief package to more than triple direct payments to struggling Americans, something demanded by President Donald Trump.
After months of partisan bickering, legislators late Monday finally approved a $900 billion stimulus package to help families and businesses struggling to survive the hit to the economy from the coronavirus before millions lose their benefits, reports AFP.The legislation includes one-time payments of $600 to most taxpayers, but Trump dropped a bombshell on the celebrations this week, hinting he might veto the bill unless the amount was increased to $2,000.
Democrats, who have been pushing for months to increase pandemic support, cheered his statement, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi challenged Republicans to support an amendment to boost the dollar amount.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives held a Christmas Eve "pro forma" session, normally a brief affair with little business, in an effort to win bipartisan approval to send the revised payments to Trump's desk for signature.
But Republicans refused to agree to the change.
"So we do not have unanimous consent," said Michigan Democrat Debbie Dingell, who was acting as speaker pro tempore.
Pelosi immediately lambasted Republicans and vowed to call the House back on Monday to approve the amendment in a regular session."Today, on Christmas Eve morning, House Republicans cruelly deprived the American people of the $2,000 that the President agreed to support. If the President is serious about the $2,000 direct payments, he must call on House Republicans to end their obstruction," she said in a statement.
Later Thursday, Pelosi said the bill has been sent to the White House and called on Trump to sign.
"The House & Senate are now sending this important legislation #ForThePeople to the White House for the President's signature. We urge him to sign this bill into law to give immediate relief to hard-working families!," Pelosi tweeted.
The stakes are high, especially if Trump vetoes the bill: About 14 million jobless workers will lose their pandemic unemployment benefits right after Christmas, and millions more face losing their homes when an eviction moratorium expires at the end of the year.