Caving to bipartisan pressure as millions of Americans faced what Sen. Bernie Sanders called the "unbelievable" cruelty of losing critical unemployment and housing protection benefits in the midst of a raging pandemic, President Donald Trump on Sunday signed a $2.3 trillion dollar Covid-19 relief and government funding bill into law.
"The... relief package signed into law today fails to adequately protect immigrants, provides $1.375 billion more for Trump's border wall, and doesn't address the Covid-19 crisis in our nation's jails and prisons."
The measure provides some $900 billion in pandemic relief—including vaccine distribution, unemployment, small business, and airline company assistance—and funds the U.S. government through September 2021.
CNN reports that aides to the president said they believed Trump would sign the bill as early as Christmas Eve at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. However, the president demurred, triggering a lapse in federal jobless benefits Saturday night, and raising the imminent threat of the expiration of a government moratorium on evictions at year's end.
Trump said he declined to sign the measure into law because instead of the $600 in direct stimulus payments to Americans—which he called "a disgrace"—he wanted to pay each recipient $2,000.
Breaking News: President Trump signed a virus relief package after days of resistance, averting a shutdown and extending jobless benefits to millions of Americans. https://t.co/fTiw1BGrVq
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 28, 2020
In a stark reversal, the president has now agreed to the $600 payments, with the promise of "much more money" to come.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) led progressive lawmakers in condemning Trump's refusal to sign the bill, calling the president's lack of action "unbelievably cruel."
Rep. Pramila Jayapal tweeted Sunday morning that "millions lost unemployment benefits today, millions more fear losing their homes because they can't pay rent."
Jayapal added that while "food lines are growing longer," the president "is in a luxury resort, perfecting [the] art of cruelty and chaos."
President-elect Joe Biden also expressed alarm that on "the day after Christmas... millions of families don't know if they'll be able to make ends meet because of President Donald Trump's refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority."
Indeed, multiple Republicans also urged Trump to sign the bill—some in unusually harsh language. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) warned that the president would be "remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior" if he did not approve the measure.
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While Trump's about-face was welcomed by many, the bill was also criticized by progressives for what they called its misplaced priorities.
But there's also some good news: The bill extends the federal eviction moratorium and provides over $3 billion to help low-income families afford access to broadband internet.
Congress can and must do better with the next bill.
— ACLU (@ACLU) December 28, 2020
.@realDonaldTrump signed COVID relief just 1 day late enough to cut enhanced unemployment a week, let 1,309 more people die from COVID-19, & let 179,104 more people contract it.
Why? For what? Just cause?
— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) December 28, 2020
Never forget, his tantrums have real life consequences for millions Americans.
Since UI expired Saturday, this delay will almost certainly postpone state unemployment payouts.
I am so glad his days of inflicting pain are coming to an end. https://t.co/DBPtCRJmGw
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) December 28, 2020
Trump's reversal comes as millions of Americans who have lost their jobs this year due to the pandemic are struggling to get by. Many of them welcomed the news of the bill's signing.
"People will die without this money," Deseree Cox, who along with her unemployed husband recently moved from Indiana to Florida, told the Washington Post. "People will get evicted. People will not be able to get their medication. To [lawmakers], $600 or $2,000, seems so little. But to the American people right now, it's just everything."