PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Trump spent his Christmas in Florida as a government shutdown looms and COVID-19 relief hangs in the balance.
Trump, at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach for the holidays, had no events on his public schedule after throwing the future of a massive COVID-19 relief and government funding bill into question. Not signing the bill, which arrived in Florida on Thursday night, could deny relief checks to millions of Americans on the brink and force a government shutdown in the midst of the pandemic.
The White House declined to share details of the president’s schedule, though he was expected to golf with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.
“During the Holiday season, President Trump will continue to work tirelessly for the American People. His schedule includes many meetings and calls,” the White House said.
Trump also tweeted that he planned to make “a short speech to service members from all over the world” by video conference Friday to celebrate the holiday, but declared: “Fake News not invited!”
Trump’s vacation came as Washington was still reeling over his surprise, eleventh-hour demand that an end-of-year spending bill that congressional leaders spent months negotiating give most Americans $2,000 COVID relief checks — far more than the $600 members of his own party had agreed to. The idea was swiftly rejected by House Republicans during a rare Christmas Eve session.
The bipartisan compromise had been considered a done deal and won sweeping approval in the House and Senate this week after the White House assured GOP leaders that Trump supported it. If he refuses to sign the deal, which is attached to a $1.4 trillion government funding bill, it will force a federal government shutdown, in addition to delaying aid checks and halting unemployment benefits and eviction protections in the most dire stretch of the pandemic.
“Made many calls and had meetings at Trump International in Palm Beach, Florida. Why would politicians not want to give people $2000, rather than only $600?” he tweeted. “It wasn’t their fault, it was China. Give our people the money!”
To mark the holiday, the president and first lady Melania Trump tweeted out a prerecorded video message in which they wished Americans a merry Christmas and thanked first responders and members of the military.
“As you know, this Christmas is different than years past,” said Mrs. Trump, who focused on the acts of “kindness and courage” the pandemic had inspired.
Trump hailed the vaccine doses now being delivered and thanked those responsible. “It is truly a Christmas miracle,” he said.
Meanwhile, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been trying to salvage the year-end legislation to try to prevent a shutdown. Democrats will call House lawmakers back to Washington for a vote Monday on Trump’s $2,000 proposal, though it would probably die in the Republican-controlled Senate.
In addition to the relief checks, the COVID-19 bill that passed would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit, provide a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses, restaurants and theaters and money for schools, and provide money for health care providers and to help with COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
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