Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday blocked attempts to alter a $2.3 trillion coronavirus aid and government spending package, leaving its status in doubt after President Donald Trump demanded extensive changes to the legislation.
Democrats sought to increase direct payments to Americans included in the bill from $600 to $2,000 per person as part of a coronavirus economic relief initiative, acting on one of Trump’s requests. Trump’s fellow Republicans, who oppose the higher amount, blocked that effort.
Republicans then moved to change the amount of foreign aid included in the package, seeking to address another one of Trump’s complaints. Democrats blocked that request. The House then adjourned for the day.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the chamber will hold a recorded vote on the stimulus-check increase on Monday.
The flurry of activity on the House floor did nothing to break a standoff that threatens desperately needed assistance for millions of Americans and raises the prospect of a partial government shutdown at a time when officials are trying to distribute two coronavirus vaccines.
Congress could keep operations running by passing a fourth stopgap funding bill before midnight on Monday. To successfully do that, lawmakers would need Trump’s cooperation at a time when he is still consumed by his November loss to Democrat Joe Biden, who is set to take office on Jan. 20.
Trump was in Florida, where he was due to play golf on Thursday. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The stopgap bill would not include coronavirus aid, however.
Embittered by his defeat to Biden, Trump is pressing Congress to dramatically alter the package, which passed by wide, bipartisan margins on Monday.
The 5,500-page bill took months to negotiate and was supported by Trump’s administration.
With the status quo unchanged, it was unclear whether Trump would sign the package into law or hold out for further action.
Without his signature, unemployment benefits for those thrown out of work by the pandemic are due to expire as soon as Saturday, and the U.S. government would be forced into a partial shutdown starting on Tuesday.
The House is due to return on Monday to attempt to override Trump’s veto of an unrelated defense-policy bill which, like the coronavirus package, passed Congress by wide, bipartisan margins.
(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; additional reporting by Steve HollandEditing by Noeleen Walder and Howard Goller)
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