16:35 GMT26 January 2021
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    The president signed a $2.3 trillion combined coronavirus relief/government spending bill into law on Sunday, despite earlier attacks over its “ridiculously low” $600 in direct relief payments to Americans, and billions in alleged pork barrel spending. The US government would have partially shut down Monday had Trump not signed the bill.

    Donald Trump has stepped up pressure on Senate lawmakers to more than triple the value of direct relief cheques to ordinary Americans, tweeting Tuesday that “our great people” had “suffered enough from the China Virus”, (Trump’s commonly used epithet referring to the coronavirus pandemic).

    On Monday, the Democratic Party-controlled House of Representatives approved a standalone bill to provide $2,000 in direct aid, with the measure approved by 275 lawmakers, while 134, including 130 Republicans, two independents and two Democrats voting “no”. 231 Democrats and 44 Republicans voted in favour of the legislation.

    The separate bill promising additional relief now heads for the Republican-held Senate. Senate Republican leaders had previously refused a new round of stimulus cheques, with the $600 agreed on in the combined bill hammered out by the two major parties only after months of negotiations and stalemate.

    Trump Chips Away at GOP Senators

    Republican sources told Axios Tuesday that Trump’s push for $2,000 cheques has had an impact, with some GOP senators reportedly feeling more pressure from their constituents to cave on the increase and seeing a “no” vote to be "too politically risky".

    One source told the outlet that roughly 60 senators in the 100-lawmaker chamber are leaning in favour of the increased stimulus. “[If Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] brings it to the floor, it might get 60. Then Trump can claim victory”, Axios’ source said.

    Before signing the combined government spending/coronavirus relief bill last week, Trump called the relief package agreed by the two parties “a disgrace”, suggesting the $600 per person in relief was far too low, and alleging that the bill contained tens of billions of dollars in spending that has “almost nothing to do with COVID”. The president sent the bill back to Congress requesting the relevant changes be made, but lawmakers blocked his request on Thursday.

    Over 160 million Americans received a one-time $1,200 relief cheque earlier this year as part of the US government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, with the economic shutdown causing tens of millions of people to lose their jobs or suffer a crippling downturn in business. The relief, which also included trillions of dollars in support for large corporations and government entities, was criticised from some quarters as “the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the world to the 1%”.

    In the autumn, Trump pressured Congress for a second round of relief cheques, but lawmakers from both parties stalled the measure, with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stating frankly that she would not allow Trump to get “his name on a cheque that goes out” before the November election.

    The spending bill signed into law by Trump on Sunday includes $25 billion in rental assistance and promises to extend a nationwide evictions moratorium until 31 January. Millions of Americans have fallen behind on their rent payments, and as many as 19 million are at risk of eviction if they don’t receive the additional government aid, or if the economy turns around, before February.


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