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US government shutdown averted after Donald Trump signs $900 billion pandemic relief bill

The move will deliver much-needed cash to businesses and individuals.
Dec 28th 2020, 6:52 AM 22,123 21

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump has signed a $900 billion (€736 billion) pandemic relief package into law, ending days of drama over his refusal to accept the deal and averting a federal government shutdown.

The massive bill includes $1.4 trillion (€1.15 trillion) to fund government agencies through to September and contains other end-of-session priorities such as money for cash-starved transit systems and an increase in food stamp benefits.

Trump announced the signing in a statement that spoke of his frustrations with the Covid-19 relief for including only $600 cheques to most Americans instead of the $2,000 that his fellow Republicans rejected.

He also complained about what he considered unnecessary spending by the government at large.

But his late objections created turmoil because politicians had thought he was supportive of the bill, which had been negotiated for months with White House input.

“I will sign the Omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed,” Trump said in the statement.

While he insisted he would send Congress “a redlined version” with items to be removed under the rescission process, those are merely suggestions. The bill, as signed, would not necessarily be changed.

Politicians now have breathing room to continue debating whether the relief cheques should be as large as the president has demanded.

The Democratic-led House supports the larger cheques and is set to vote on the issue on Monday, but it is expected to be ignored by the Republican-held Senate where spending faces stern opposition.

Republicans and Democrats swiftly welcomed Trump’s decision to sign the bill into law.

“The compromise bill is not perfect, but it will do an enormous amount of good for struggling Kentuckians and Americans across the country who need help now,” said Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, referencing his home state.

“I thank the President for signing this relief into law.”

Democrats are promising more aid to come once President-elect Joe Biden takes office, but Republicans are signalling a wait-and-see approach.

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mi-bernie-sanders-campaigns-for-joe-biden-and-kamala-harris-presidential-campaign Bernie Sanders: described delay as 'cruel' Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

In the face of growing economic hardship, spreading disease and a looming shutdown, politicians on Sunday had urged Trump to sign the legislation immediately, then have Congress follow up with additional aid.

Aside from unemployment benefits and relief payments to families, money for vaccine distribution, businesses, cash-starved public transit systems and more is on the line. Protections against evictions also hung in the balance.

“What the president is doing right now is unbelievably cruel,” said independent senator Bernie Sanders.

“So many people are hurting. It is really insane and this president has got to finally … do the right thing for the American people and stop worrying about his ego.”

Washington had been reeling since Trump turned on the deal. Fingers pointed at administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, as lawmakers tried to understand whether they were misled about Trump’s position.

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