U.S. lawmakers blocked attempts to alter a $2.3 trillion coronavirus aid and government spending package, rejecting President Donald Trump’s demand for extensive changes and leaving benefits for millions of Americans at risk.
Democrats in the House of Representatives 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 sought 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 would 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.
Many Democrats say the $792 billion coronavirus aid package is not big enough to address a pandemic that has killed nearly 320,000 Americans, and they have welcomed Trump’s call for larger stimulus checks.
“How ironic it would be to shut down the federal government at a time of pandemic crisis, the very time when government services are needed the most,” House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer said at a news conference.
Republicans opposed larger direct payments during negotiations as they sought to keep the overall price tag of the coronavirus aid below $1 trillion.
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.