Trump threatens to torpedo Covid relief package with new demands

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US president Donald Trump has threatened to torpedo US congress' massive Covid-19 relief package in the midst of a raging pandemic and economic uncertainty, demanding changes which fellow Republicans have opposed.

Mr Trump criticised the bipartisan 900 billion dollar (£671 billion) package in a video he tweeted out on Tuesday night, and suggested he may not sign the legislation.

He called on members of US congress to increase direct payments for most Americans from 600 dollars (£447) to 2,000 dollars (£1,493) for individuals and 4,000 dollars (£2,986) for couples.

Railing against a range of provisions in the bill, including for foreign aid, he told legislators to "get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation and to send me a suitable bill".

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President Donald Trump is tossed a golf ball as he golfs at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
President Donald Trump, second from the left, plays golf at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Surrounded by Army cadets, President Donald Trump watches the first half of the 121st Army-Navy Football Game in Michie Stadium at the United States Military Academy, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
El presidente Donald Trump camina por el jardín sur de la Casa Blanca, el 12 de diciembre de 2020. (AP Foto/Patrick Semansky, File)
President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, to travel to Michie Stadium at the United States Military Academy to attend the 121st Army-Navy Football Game at West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump speaks during an "Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit" on the White House complex, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
El presidente Donald Trump escucha la pregunta de un reportero durante la ceremonia de entrega de la Medalla Presidencial de la Libertad, el máximo honor civil, al exentrenador de lucha y campeón olímpico Dan Gable, en la Oficina Oval de la Casa Blanca, el lunes 7 de diciembre de 2020, en Washington. (AP Foto/Patrick Semansky)
President Donald Trump prepares to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, to Olympic gold medalist and former University of Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, Dec. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally for Senate Republican candidates, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., at Valdosta Regional Airport, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Valdosta, Ga. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a news conference in the briefing room at the White House in Washington, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Donald Trump leaves after speaking at the White House, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a news conference in the briefing room at the White House in Washington, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20: President Donald J. Trump departs after delivering remarks on delivering lower prescription drug prices for all Americans in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Friday, Nov 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20: President Donald Trump stands by after speaking to reporters about prescription drug prices in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on Friday, Nov 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20: U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to speak to the press in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Donald Trump held his first press conference in over a week to make an announcement on prescription drug prices as he continues to challenge the results of the 2020 Presidential election. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump watches from the motorcade as he returns to the White House in Washington, DC, after playing golf on November 7, 2020. - Joyous celebrations erupted in Washington on Saturday after Joe Biden was declared winner of the US presidency, as several people poured into the streets of the US capital -- some of them chanting, cheering and singing in front of the White House. (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN / AFP) (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump plays a round of Golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump plays a round of Golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump gives two thumbs up to supporters as he departs after playing golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump gives two thumbs up to supporters as he departs after playing golf at the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling Va., Sunday Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
President Donald Trump returns to the White House after playing a round of golf, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump returns to the White House after playing a round of golf, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump arrives at the White House after golfing Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump talks on the phone as he arrives at the White House after golfing Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump arrives at the White House after golfing Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump participates in a round of golf at the Trump National Golf Course on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Sterling, Va. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
US President Donald Trump watches from the motorcade as he returns to the White House in Washington, DC, after playing golf on November 7, 2020. - Joyous celebrations erupted in Washington on Saturday after Joe Biden was declared winner of the US presidency, as several people poured into the streets of the US capital -- some of them chanting, cheering and singing in front of the White House. (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN / AFP) (Photo by ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump returns to the White House from playing golf in Washington, DC on November 7, 2020, after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election. - Joyous celebrations erupted in Washington on Saturday after Joe Biden was declared winner of the US presidency, as several people poured into the streets of the US capital -- some of them chanting, cheering and singing in front of the White House. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump arrives to speak in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC on November 5, 2020. - Democrat Joe Biden is leading President Donald Trump in the race for the 270 electoral votes that will put one of them over the top, with the Democrat's campaign asserting they believe he has enough votes to win in key battleground states that remain undecided, like Pennsylvania. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Washington, as White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany listens. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 05: U.S. President Donald Trump arrives to speak in the briefing room at the White House on November 5, 2020 in Washington, DC. Votes are still being counted two days after the presidential election as incumbent Trump is in a close race against challenger Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, which remains too close to call. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
El presidente Donald Trump habla en la Casa Blanca, Washington, 5 de noviembre de 2020. (AP Foto/Evan Vucci)
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Mr Trump did not specifically vow to veto the bill, and there may be enough support for the legislation in US congress to override him if he does.

However, if the president was to upend the sprawling legislation, the consequences would be severe, including no federal aid to struggling Americans and small businesses, and no additional resources to help with vaccine distribution.

In addition, because congress linked the pandemic relief bill to an overarching funding measure, the government would shut down on December 29.

Coronavirus graphic
(PA Graphics)

The relief package was part of a hard-fought compromise bill that includes 1.4 trillion dollars (£1 trillion) to fund US government agencies through to September and contains other end-of-session priorities such as money for cash-starved transit systems, an increase in food stamp benefits and about four billion dollars (£2.9 billion) to help other nations provide a Covid-19 vaccine for their people.

Legislators spent months in a stalemate over pandemic relief funds, even as Covid-19 cases soared across the country.

Democrats had pushed for higher payments to Americans, but compromised with Republicans to allow a deal to proceed.

Following Mr Trump's interjection, US house speaker Nancy Pelosi all but dared Mr Trump's Republican allies in congress to meet the president's demand for far higher payments.

She said in a tweet: "At last, the President has agreed to $2,000. Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let's do it!"

An aide said she would put the proposal forward on Thursday for a vote.

Republicans have been reluctant to spend more on pandemic relief and only agreed to the big year-end package as time dwindled for a final deal.

And senator Chuck Schumer, the US senate Democratic leader, said that "Trump needs to sign the bill to help people and keep the government open", with congress stepping up to provide more aid later.

The senate cleared the huge relief package by a 92-6 vote after the house approved it by 359-53.

Those votes totals would be enough to override a veto should Mr Trump decide to take that step.

After months of partisanship and politicking about pandemic relief, the logjam broke after US president-elect Joe Biden urged his party to accept a compromise with top Republicans that is smaller than many Democrats would have liked.

Mr Biden applauded members of congress for their work. He described the package as far from perfect, "but it does provide vital relief at a critical time".

He also said more relief would be needed in the months ahead. "We have our first hint and glimpse of bipartisanship," Mr Biden added.

"In this election, the American people made it clear they want us to reach across the aisle and work together."

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