President Donald Trump has signed the $900 billion COVID-19 relief and $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the government, avoiding a midnight shutdown deadline.
"On Sunday, December 27, 2020, the President signed into law: H.R. 133, an Act making consolidated appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2021, providing coronavirus emergency response and relief, and for other purposes," a statement from the White House said.
Trump’s signature on the bill ends a nearly week-long standoff with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who have urged the president to pass the measure amid rising COVID cases and unemployment benefits for millions of Americans lapsing on Saturday.
"I will sign the Omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed," Trump said in a statement Sunday night. "I will send back to Congress a redlined version, item by item, accompanied by the formal rescission request to Congress insisting that those funds be removed from the bill."
"On Monday the House will vote to increase payments to individuals from $600 to $2,000," Trump added, noting that he secured a comittment from Congress regarding Section 230, saying the policy "will be reviewed and either be terminated or substantially reformed."
Trump has long railed against Section 230, a key component of the Communications Decency Act that shields websites from liability for content posted by the platform’s users. He had previously threatened to veto the 2021 National Defense Authorization military spending bill, in part, because it did not contain language repealing Section 230.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) issued a statement following Trump signing the measure: “I applaud President Trump’s decision to get hundreds of billions of dollars of crucial COVID-19 relief out the door and into the hands of American families as quickly as possible."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the signing of the bill "welcome news for the fourteen million Americans who just lost the lifeline of unemployment benefits on Christmas Weekend, and for the millions more struggling to stay afloat during this historic pandemic and economic crisis."
“This relief legislation is a down payment on what is needed to crush the virus, put money in the pockets of the American people and honor our heroes – our health care workers, first responders, transit and sanitation workers and teachers," Pelosi continued, calling on Trump and Congressional Republicans to support a measure to increase direct payment checks to $2,000, which will be brought to the House floor on Monday.
The massive bill includes $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies through September and contains other end-of-session priorities such as an increase in food stamp benefits.
The signing Sunday, at his private club in Florida came amid escalating criticism over his eleventh-hour demands for larger, $2,000 relief checks and scaled-back spending even though the bill had already passed the House and Senate by wide margins. The bill was passed with what lawmakers had thought was Trump’s blessing, and after months of negotiations with his administration.
Millions of Americans were collecting checks under two federal programs created in March to help ease the pain inflicted by the deadly pandemic. On Monday, Congress agreed to extend those programs as part of their pandemic rescue package.
It is unclear when the extension of the programs will take effect, due to the interruption.
The day after Congress passed the relief measure, Trump slammed the bill, taking particular issue with the low amount of money allocated as direct payments to Americans.
“I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple," Trump said in a Tuesday night video released on social media. "I am also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation, and to send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package.”
The bipartisan compromise had been considered a done deal and had won sweeping approval in the House and Senate this week after the White House assured GOP leaders that Trump supported it.
Trump’s decision to attack the COVID bill has been seen, at least in part, as political punishment for what he considers insufficient backing by congressional Republicans of his campaign to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election with unfounded claims of voter fraud.
In a statement released Saturday, President-elect Joe Biden urged Trump to sign the bill, warning of "devastating consequences" if he does not take action.
"Delay means more small businesses won’t survive this dark winter because they lack access to the lifeline they need, and Americans face further delays in getting the direct payments they deserve as quickly as possible to help deal with the economic devastation caused by COVID-19," Biden added.
"This bill is critical," Biden wrote. "It needs to be signed into law now."
Democrats and Republicans alike urged Trump to sign the bill in recent days.
“What the president is doing right now is unbelievably cruel,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos Sunday. “So many people are hurting.
“It is really insane,” Sanders added, “And this president has got to finally ... do the right thing for the American people and stop worrying about his ego.”
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said he understood that Trump “wants to be remembered for advocating for big checks, but the danger is he’ll be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior if he allows this to expire,” adding, “I think the best thing to do, as I said, sign this and then make the case for subsequent legislation.”
The same point was echoed by Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan: “I just gave up guessing what he might do next.”
Trump's foot-dragging resulted in a lapse in unemployment benefits for millions struggling to make ends meet and threatened a government shutdown in the midst of a pandemic. But signing the bill into law prevents another crisis of Trump’s own creation and ends a standoff with his own party during the final days of his administration.
It is unclear what, if anything, Trump accomplished with his delay, beyond angering all sides and empowering Democrats to continue their push for higher relief checks, which his own party opposes.
While the president insisted he would send Congress “a redlined version” with items to be removed under the rescission process, those are merely suggestions to Congress. The bill, as signed, would not necessarily be changed.
Democrats, who have the majority in the House, immediately vowed to prevent any cuts. Democrats “will reject any rescissions” submitted by the president, said Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), in a statement.
Lawmakers now have breathing room to continue debating whether the relief checks should be as large as the president has demanded. The Democratic-led House supports the larger checks and is set to vote on the issue Monday, but it’s expected to be ignored by the Republican-held Senate where spending faces opposition. For now, the administration can only begin work sending out the $600 payments.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he would offer Trump’s proposal for $2,000 checks for a vote in Senate — putting Republicans on the spot.
“The House will pass a bill to give Americans $2,000 checks. Then I will move to pass it in the Senate,” Schumer tweeted. “No Democrats will object. Will Senate Republicans?”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.