14 million Americans are without jobless benefits as Trump refuses to budge on bill

An estimated 14 million Americans lost jobless benefits on Sunday as outgoing President Donald Trump continued to resist signing an omnibus spending legislation that provides for $900 billion in Covid-19 relief and $1.4 trillion to keep the federal government funded beyond Tuesday.

Trump is demanding $2,000 in direct payments in relief for those rendered jobless by the pandemic instead of the $600 in the bill that was proposed by his own negotiators and passed by both the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and the Republican-led Senate. He is also seeking the federal spending bill to be stripped of certain expenses, including some proposed by his own administration.

Congressional leaders have signalled they will try one more time on Monday to put together a package for the president to sign.

“Increase payments to the people, get rid of the ‘pork’,” Trump tweeted on Sunday morning, shortly after the unemployment benefits lapsed. “Pork” comes from “pork barrel”, a term used to describe federal funding of local projects at the behest of members of congress.

US Congress sent the president an omnibus legislation last week proposing $900 billion in Covid-19 relief that included direct payments of $600 each to those unemployed and assistance to small businesses, airlines and funds for vaccine distribution. The $2.3 trillion package also contained $1.4 trillion to fund the federal government.

The outgoing president, who had been largely missing from the protracted negotiations that took place, suddenly announced that he won’t sign the bill as proposed unless the direct payments were hiked to $2,000 and certain expenses were not removed from the federal funding part of the legislation.

Trump’s announcement took both Democrats and Republicans by surprise. Democrats had been seeking more in direct payments and had settled for less at the insistence of Republicans and the president’s own negotiators, led by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who had personally proposed the amount of $600, as the Washington Post reported.

Democrats tried to pass a legislation with the increased amount sought by the president, but Republicans blocked it. Trump has felt frustrated with some Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who are unwilling to go along with his efforts to overturn the November 3 election which he lost to President-elect Joe Biden. The president wants Republican lawmakers to force Congress to reject the electoral college vote when it comes up for a final certification on January 6.

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