Trump demands Congress amend ‘wasteful’ COVID relief bill

Demands to change the bipartisan bill could further delay the delivery of financial assistance to millions of Americans during the pandemic.

US President Donald Trump has rejected a nearly $900bn emergency spending legislation to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, telling Congress to amend the bill and increase the amount of relief to Americans, among other demands.

In a video message posted on social media on Tuesday night, Trump also claimed the bill contained “wasteful spending”, which he said had nothing to do with the pandemic.

“The bill they are now planning to send back to my desk is much different than anticipated,” Trump said.

“It really is a disgrace.”

While he did not explicitly say he would not sign the bill, which passed overwhelmingly on Monday in both houses of Congress, Trump made it clear he would not accept the legislation in its current form.

“I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000, or $4,000 for a couple,” he said, referring to relief cheques meant to go out to most Americans.

“I’m also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation and just send me a suitable bill.”

Further delay expected

Trump’s latest demand could further delay the delivery of much-needed economic relief to millions of Americans, who have been severely affected by the economic downturn triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill has already been delayed for months after Republican and Democratic members of Congress fought over details of the package and accused each other of politicising the process ahead of the November 3 elections.

On Tuesday night, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Democrats were ready to support up to $2,000 in financial assistance.

Any additional delay in approving a deal would have dire consequences with many jobless workers seeing their unemployment benefits expire, as well as people living in rented accommodation facing the risk of eviction without the government’s financial assistance.

The enormous package is part of a $2.3 trillion, almost 5,600-page bill that includes a so-called omnibus bill to fund the government for the coming year.

As well as the support payments and rental assistance, it also includes government grants for small businesses.

But Trump has claimed the bill also involves items such as millions of dollars in assistance to Cambodia and Myanmar, as well as more than $1bn to Egypt and its military.

Trump says small businesses such as restaurants should be getting more financing for a longer period.

“Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests while sending the bare minimum to the American people, who need it,” he said, adding that China is to blame for the pandemic and its economic consequences.

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