- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 22, 2020

President Trump said Tuesday night he’ll ask Congress to revise the just-passed $900 billion COVID relief package, saying it contains too much foreign aid and not enough help for struggling Americans.

Calling the legislation “a disgrace,” Mr. Trump stopped short of threatening a veto. But he asked Congress to “amend” the bill to increase direct payments of $600 to $2,000, calling the former amount “ridiculously low.”

He also called on Congress to “get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items.”

“Send me a suitable bill, or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package, and maybe that administration will be me,” Mr. Trump said in a video address. “And we will get it done.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi backed Mr. Trump’s call to ramp up the checks to $2,000, saying Democrats were willing bring that provision to a vote.

“Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks. At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent,” the California Democrat tweeted. “Let’s do it!”

White House aides had said earlier that Mr. Trump would sign the bill. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said earlier on Tuesday that he was “pleased” with the package, saying it would “provide critical additional economic relief for American workers, families, and businesses that, through no fault of their own, have been adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.”

The package includes increased jobless benefits, extra small business loans, direct payments of $600 to individuals earning up to $75,000, and funds to help distribute COVID-19 vaccines, among other items.

But Mr. Trump said the COVID-19 relief bill “has almost nothing to do with COVID.” He cited foreign aid including $85.5 million dollars for Cambodia, $134 million to Burma, $1.3 billion for Egypt, “which will go out and buy almost exclusively Russian military equipment,” and $25 million dollars for “democracy and gender programs in Pakistan.” “The bill also allows stimulus checks for the family members of illegal aliens, allowing them to get up to $1,800 each,” Mr. Trump said. “This is far more than the Americans are given.”

The president particularly objected to a two-year provision that would allow companies temporarily to deduct 100% of business meals with clients, up from 50% currently, at an estimated cost of $6.3 billion.

“This two-year period must be withdrawn, which will allow the [restaurant] owners to obtain financing and get their restaurants back in condition,” Mr. Trump said. “Congress can terminate it at a much later date. But two years is not acceptable. It’s not enough. Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests, while sending the bare minimum to the American people who need it.”

Gabriella Muñoz contributed to this report.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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