Trump signs pandemic aid and spending bill, averting government shutdown

By Steve Holland and Susan Cornwell

PALM BEACH, Fla./WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday signed into law a $2.3 trillion pandemic aid and spending package, restoring unemployment benefits to millions of Americans and averting a federal government shutdown.

The President had demanded that Congress change the bill to increase the size of stimulus checks for struggling Americans to $2,000 from $600 and also cut some other spending.

After signing the bill, Trump said he was signing the bill with “a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed.”

“Much more money is coming,” he insisted in a statement.

Many economists agree the financial aid in the bill should be higher to get the economy moving again but say that immediate support for Americans hit by coronavirus lockdowns is still urgently needed.

Unemployment benefits being paid out to about 14 million people through pandemic programs lapsed on Saturday, but will be restarted now that Trump has signed the bill.

The package includes $1.4 trillion in spending to fund government agencies. If Trump had not signed the legislation, then a partial government shutdown would have begun on Tuesday that would have put millions of government workers’ incomes at risk.

Americans are living through a bitter holiday season amid a pandemic that has killed nearly 330,000 people in the United States, with a daily death toll now repeatedly well over 3,000 people, the highest since the pandemic began.

The relief package also extends a moratorium on evictions that was due to expire on Dec. 31, refreshes support for small business payrolls, provides funding to help schools re-open and aid for the transport industry and vaccine distribution.

Trump noted that the House of Representatives planned to vote on Monday to increase coronavirus relief checks to individuals from $600 to $2,000, and said the Senate “will start the process” to approve higher payments.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Susan Cornwell; additional reporting by Aram Roston and Matt Spetalnick; Writing by Matt Spetalnick and Alistair Bell. Editing by Daniel Wallis and Diane Craft)

Trump veto threat raises the prospect of year-end government shutdown

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Washington on Wednesday faced the prospect of a year-end U.S. government shutdown during a raging pandemic after outgoing President Donald Trump threatened not to sign a $2.3 trillion package funding the government for another year.

The package, which includes $892 billion specifically responding to the COVID-19 virus, which has killed more than 323,000 Americans, was the result of months of negotiation between congressional Republicans and Democrats. It also funds government operations through September 2021.

Trump, in a video posted to social media on Tuesday evening, surprised some of his closest officials by demanding that the bill be revised to include $2,000 payments to each American, more than triple the $600 that Congress had been discussing publicly for almost a week before passing the bill.

A source familiar with the situation said aides thought they had talked Trump out of the $2,000 demand last week, only to learn he had not given up when he posted the video. That surprised even his Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, who took part in the talks and backed the $600 figure.

Current federal funding is due to expire on Monday if Trump, who is scheduled to leave for Florida on Wednesday, does not sign the bill into law.

That would furlough millions of federal workers and shut down wide swaths of the U.S. government at a time when it is rushing to distribute two coronavirus vaccines and contend with a massive hack that officials say was perpetrated by Russia.

Trump’s administration helped to craft the bill, and the White House said on Sunday that he would sign it.

In the video Trump demanded the bill be stripped of foreign aid, which is included in every annual federal spending bill.

He also objected to other elements of the 5,500-page bill, such as fish breeding and funding for the Smithsonian museums.

Trump did not say whether he would actually veto the legislation.

He has also set up a parallel fight with Congress that comes to a head on Wednesday, his deadline to decide whether to carry out his threat to veto the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act. Trump dislikes the bill, which funds the military and has passed uninterrupted every year for decades, because it would strip the names of Confederate generals from military bases and because it does not repeal liability protections – unrelated to defense – for social media companies, such as Twitter and Facebook, that Trump considers unfriendly to conservatives.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and the Republican-controlled Senate passed the bill by wide, bipartisan margins, and could return to Washington to override his veto if necessary. The House of Representatives already plans to return on Dec. 28 if Trump vetoes the defense-policy bill. That is the same day government funding is due to expire.

Both measures passed with veto-proof majorities, but a veto would put Trump’s fellow Republicans in an awkward position.

Many of them opposed the $2,000 payments that Trump is now demanding, and they would have to either defy their party’s leader or change their position on those payments.

Democrats have supported the $2,000 payments sought by Trump, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday she was ready to vote on the proposal this week. She did not address Trump’s other concerns.

If Trump takes no action, the bill would normally become law after 10 days without his signature under the U.S. Constitution. However, that does not apply in this situation because Congress is due to adjourn at the end of the year.

Trump sparked a record 35-day government shutdown two years ago when he rejected a federal spending bill over what he said was insufficient funding for building a U.S.-Mexico border wall.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan, additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Scott Malone and Steve Orlofsky)

U.S. Senate passes, sends to Trump, one-week extension of government funding

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Friday unanimously approved a one-week extension of federal funding to avoid a government shutdown this weekend and to provide more time for separate negotiations on COVID-19 relief and an overarching spending bill.

With the Senate’s vote the measure now goes to President Donald Trump for signing into law.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and David Morgan)

U.S. Congress eyes stopgap funding as COVID-19 relief, spending talks continue

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Congress is likely to consider a one-week stopgap funding bill to provide more time for lawmakers to hammer out agreements in talks aimed at delivering COVID-19 relief and an overarching spending bill to avoid a government shutdown, Democratic aides said on Monday.

Lawmakers in the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-run House of Representatives need to enact a funding measure by Friday, when current funding for federal agencies is set to expire. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hope to attach long-awaited COVID-19 relief to a broad $1.4 trillion spending bill.

But separate negotiations on coronavirus aid and government funding have yet to produce agreement, making it likely that Congress will vote on a stopgap funding measure, known as a continuing resolution, to allow an additional week of talks, two House Democratic aides said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A bipartisan effort to deliver an infusion of COVID-19 relief to U.S. families and businesses remained hung up on Monday over provisions to help state and local governments, which Democrats want, and protect businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits, a top Republican priority.

A group of House and Senate lawmakers had been expected as early as Monday to roll out the formal text of a $908 billion bill to blunt the health and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in a new memo to Congress that failure to enact relief would risk a “double-dip recession” – which occurs when a recession is followed by a brief recovery and then another recession – that would permanently shutter small businesses and leave millions of Americans with no means of support.

But after lawmakers and their staff worked through the weekend to finalize the package, congressional aides said there was still no agreement.

The same issues have blocked coronavirus relief legislation for months, leading to mounting frustrations toward Congress among business owners, unions, state and local government officials and ordinary Americans.

Considering the weakening of the economy coupled with a surge in COVID-19 cases at a time when previously approved relief mechanisms are due to expire, it would be “stupidity on steroids if Congress doesn’t act,” Democratic Senator Mark Warner, a member of the bipartisan group that wrote the proposal, told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

Lawmakers enacted $3 trillion in aid earlier this year but have not been able to agree on fresh relief since April.

A group of emergency aid programs implemented in response to the pandemic, including additional unemployment benefits and a moratorium on renter evictions, is set to expire at the end of December.

With U.S. coronavirus deaths topping 282,000 and pressure mounting for aid to a fragile economy, lawmakers and their staff worked through the weekend to put the finishing touches on the COVID-19 package intended to help those facing the greatest need, according to Senate Republican aides.

It would set new emergency assistance for small businesses, unemployed people, airlines and other industries during the pandemic. But lawmakers have opted not to include stimulus checks to individuals out of concern that a higher price tag could delay passage.

A framework for the bipartisan bill, unveiled earlier by the group of House and Senate lawmakers, has support from moderates and conservatives.

McConnell, who has pushed to limit spending to $500 billion, circulated a list of “targeted” relief provisions to Senate Republicans last week that he said President Donald Trump would sign. White House officials have also said that Trump favors a targeted measure.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by David Lawder, Sarah N. Lynch and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Scott Malone and Will Dunham)

Trump signs stopgap bill to avoid U.S. government shutdown

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump signed a stopgap funding bill on Thursday that would keep the federal government open through December 11, the White House said in a statement.

Trump signed the measure into law shortly after government funding ran out at midnight.

The law would maintain current funding levels for most programs, avoiding a government shutdown in the middle of a pandemic just weeks ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

It would also give lawmakers more time to work out budget details for the fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30 2021, including for military operations, healthcare, national parks, space programs, and airport and border security.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted 82-6 on a procedural motion to advance the temporary funding bill.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives approved the measure a week ago after Democrats struck a deal with the White House and Republicans on farmers’ aid and nutritional assistance for children.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Peter Graff)

U.S. House pauses vote on bill to fund government and avoid shutdown

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives put on hold an expected Tuesday vote on a bill to fund the government through Dec. 11, while bipartisan congressional leaders discussed whether to include farm aid sought by President Donald Trump, lawmakers and aides said.

The delay “relates to numerous agriculture provisions” in the bill, one Democratic aide said. With government funding lapsing on Sept. 30, House Democrats announced Monday they had filed the stopgap funding legislation, but they angered Republicans by leaving out some farm money that Trump wanted.

The bill generally continues current spending levels, avoiding a government shutdown when funding runs out on Sept. 30. It would give lawmakers more time to work out spending through September 2021, including budgets for military operations, healthcare, national parks, space programs, and airport and border security.

“At some point in the next day or two, we expect that there will be a continuing resolution on the floor that will continue the current spending agreement until December,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic caucus, who have the majority. He said he hoped it would be “bipartisan in nature.”

The version that House Democrats filed on Monday did not include $21.1 billion that the White House sought to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation, a program to stabilize farm incomes, because Democrats considered it a blank check for political favors. Trump had promised more farm aid during a rally in Wisconsin last week.

Republicans protested the omission, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arguing that farmers need the help.

“The talks continue, and hopefully we’ll reach an agreement,” McConnell told reporters on Tuesday.

A House Republican aide said Democrats had earlier walked away from an agreement that included the farm aid.

“Republicans will continue to fight for these provisions to be included,” he said.

Leaders of both parties say they are not interested in a standoff that could lead to a government shutdown, amid a pandemic and just weeks before the Nov. 3 elections.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; additional reporting by Richard Cowan and David Morgan; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Bernadette Baum)

House Democrats file bill to fund U.S. government but leave out new farm money

By Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The

By Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress this week will consider legislation funding the federal government through mid-December, with lawmakers hoping to avoid the spectacle of a government shutdown amid a pandemic and just weeks before the Nov. 3 elections.

House Democrats announced Monday they had filed the legislation, which leaves out new money that President Donald Trump wanted for farmers. A Democratic aide said the bill could be on the House floor as soon as Tuesday. The Senate could then act later this week.

The new federal fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

The bill is designed to give lawmakers more time to work out federal spending for the period through September 2021, including budgets for military operations, healthcare, national parks, space programs, and airport and border security.

The spending proposal “will avert a catastrophic shutdown in the middle of the ongoing pandemic, wildfires and hurricanes, and keep government open until December 11, when we plan to have bipartisan legislation to fund the government for this fiscal year,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

But the measure’s December end date will require Congress to return to the government funding question again during its post-election lame-duck session, either during or after what could be a bruising fight to confirm Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

And the legislation does not include $21.1 billion the White House sought to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation, a program to stabilize farm incomes, because Democrats considered this a “blank check” for “political favors,” said a House Democratic aide who asked not to be named. Trump promised more farm aid during a rally in Wisconsin last week.

Republicans were not happy. “House Democrats’ rough draft of a government funding bill shamefully leaves out key relief and support that American farmers need. This is no time to add insult to injury and defund help for farmers and rural America,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote on Twitter. Republicans could seek to amend the document to add in the provision.

The bill proposes spending $14 billion to shore up a trust fund that pays for airport improvements and air traffic control

operations. It also proposes extending surface transportation funding for another year, directing $13.6 billion to maintain current spending levels on highways and mass transit.

Pelosi said the bill would also save America’s older citizens from an increase in Medicare health insurance premiums of up to $50 per month.

Congressional Democrats have had a stormy relationship with the White House over federal funding since Trump took office early in 2017. He has sought deep cuts in domestic spending while ramping up military funds.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; additional reporting by David Shepardson and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Scott Malone and Steve Orlofsky)

this week will consider legislation funding the federal government through mid-December, with lawmakers hoping to avoid the spectacle of a government shutdown amid a pandemic and just weeks before the Nov. 3 elections.

House Democrats announced Monday they had filed the legislation, which leaves out new money that President Donald Trump wanted for farmers. A Democratic aide said the bill could be on the House floor as soon as Tuesday. The Senate could then act later this week.

The new federal fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

The bill is designed to give lawmakers more time to work out federal spending for the period through September 2021, including budgets for military operations, healthcare, national parks, space programs, and airport and border security.

The spending proposal “will avert a catastrophic shutdown in the middle of the ongoing pandemic, wildfires and hurricanes, and keep government open until December 11, when we plan to have bipartisan legislation to fund the government for this fiscal year,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

But the measure’s December end date will require Congress to return to the government funding question again during its post-election lame-duck session, either during or after what could be a bruising fight to confirm Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

And the legislation does not include $21.1 billion the White House sought to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation, a program to stabilize farm incomes, because Democrats considered this a “blank check” for “political favors,” said a House Democratic aide who asked not to be named. Trump promised more farm aid during a rally in Wisconsin last week.

Republicans were not happy. “House Democrats’ rough draft of a government funding bill shamefully leaves out key relief and support that American farmers need. This is no time to add insult to injury and defund help for farmers and rural America,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote on Twitter. Republicans could seek to amend the document to add in the provision.

The bill proposes spending $14 billion to shore up a trust fund that pays for airport improvements and air traffic control

operations. It also proposes extending surface transportation funding for another year, directing $13.6 billion to maintain current spending levels on highways and mass transit.

Pelosi said the bill would also save America’s older citizens from an increase in Medicare health insurance premiums of up to $50 per month.

Congressional Democrats have had a stormy relationship with the White House over federal funding since Trump took office early in 2017. He has sought deep cuts in domestic spending while ramping up military funds.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; additional reporting by David Shepardson and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Scott Malone and Steve Orlofsky)

Congress faces coronavirus, government funding battles as summer recess ends

By Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress faces a tight deadline to avoid a government shutdown as lawmakers begin returning to Washington next week, complicated by bitter conflicts between Republicans and Democrats over the next package of coronavirus aid.

The Republican-led Senate is due back on Tuesday, while the Democratic-led House of Representatives plans to hold votes on bills starting the following week.

With congressional elections on Nov. 3, both chambers have very few days left to finish work as lawmakers plan to campaign in their home states for much of October.

The federal fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, so they will have to scurry to reach a deal on legislation funding government programs and averting a partial shutdown that could be especially damaging to lawmakers facing re-election in November.

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany expressed optimism that agreement will be reached in a timely way.

Congress is widely expected to pass a temporary measure mainly funding the government at current levels, leaving budget decisions for after Election Day.

But the issue is complicated by rancor over how best to address the coronavirus, especially amid the yawning federal budget deficit.

On Wednesday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the fiscal 2020 deficit would hit $3.3 trillion, or 16% of gross domestic product, fueled by emergency pandemic aid already enacted into law.

More than $3 trillion in coronavirus relief was enacted earlier this year. But the Republican-led Senate left town last month without taking up another $3 trillion aid package the House passed in May or an alternative.

The two parties are sharply divided, but there are also disputes among Trump’s fellow Republicans. Many of the Senate’s 53 Republicans are on record opposing additional federal coronavirus relief, and most of the others want to pass a far smaller bill than the House’s.

One senior Senate Republican aide said disagreement among Republicans was so great that it was not clear whether a smaller, partisan bill could come up for a vote. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has said he opposes a so-called “skinny” coronavirus bill and his party could block one from passing.

Alternatively, lawmakers could tuck coronavirus relief into the must-do government funding bill. Provisions could include extra unemployment benefits to replace the $600-per-week payments that expired in July, measures to prevent evictions or aid for schools or local governments.

But a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Reuters that Democrats want a “clean” government-funding bill. That usually means a measure without controversial add-ons.

Republican President Donald Trump is running for re-election, and one- third of the 100-member Senate and all 435 House seats are up for grabs when voters head to the polls on Nov. 3.

A government shutdown just before the elections, as the coronavirus pandemic continues, could be particularly damaging to Republican prospects since they control the White House and Senate.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

House readies vote on stopgap funding bill to avoid government shutdown

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives prepared to vote on Thursday on a stopgap government funding bill that would avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1 by maintaining current spending levels until Nov. 21.

The measure, known as a continuing resolution or CR, is intended to give lawmakers additional time to agree on more comprehensive funding legislation after overcoming differences on funding priorities, including President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico and immigration policies that Democrats oppose.

“Our hope is that we will take the few weeks we have, now that we have a continuing resolution, and actually get a spending bill that will get bipartisan support,” said Representative Jim McGovern, a Democrat.

The vote was expected to occur after an hour-long debate due to begin in mid-afternoon. If approved as expected, the measure would move to the Senate. Final passage would require approval from both houses of Congress and the signature of Trump.

The new measure was hammered out during negotiations involving members of both parties and lawmakers from both chambers of Congress.

Lawmakers adopted a two-year budget and debt deal in July that authorized discretionary defense and non-defense programs. But Congress still needs to pass annual legislation to fund agencies. Without approval of the new measure, funding would expire after midnight on Sept. 30, when the current federal fiscal year ends.

The government shut down for more than a month in December and January, after Trump initially refused to sign a spending bill without funding for the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

The new funding measure requires the Department of Agriculture to report to Congress by the end of October on payments made to U.S. farmers under the Trump administration’s trade war mitigation program, according to an aide who said payments to foreign-owned companies would have to be listed.

In composing the measure, lawmakers avoided border policy proposals from liberal Democrats to better ensure passage by both the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-led Senate.

The measure does include funding that Democrats sought for public-health centers and for the Medicaid healthcare program in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Tom Brown)

Wary of shutdown, Trump inches toward support for funding deal

U.S. President Donald Trump listens next to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross during a Cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Richard Cowan and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday edged toward backing a deal in Congress on government funding that would not meet his demand for $5.7 billion for a wall on the Mexican border but would avert a partial government shutdown.

Trump, widely blamed for a five-week shutdown that ended in January, said he did not want to see federal agencies close again because of fighting over funds for the wall, one of his signature campaign promises in the 2016 election.

The Republican president did not commit himself to backing the government funding agreement struck between Democratic and Republican lawmakers this week. But two sources and a Republican senator close to the White House said he would likely sign off on it.

“I don’t want to see a shutdown. A shutdown would be a terrible thing. I think a point was made with the last shutdown,” Trump told reporters. “People realized how bad the border is, how unsafe the border is, and I think a lot of good points were made.”

Trump said he would hold off on a decision until he sees actual legislation about the issue. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Trump was “inclined to take the deal and move on.”

Graham told reporters that Trump would then look elsewhere to find more money to build a wall along the U.S. southern border and was “very inclined” to declare a national emergency to secure the funds.

With a Friday night deadline looming before a shutdown, there is little time for the White House and the political parties in Congress to agree on funding.

Funding is due to expire for the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and several other federal agencies.

LESS MONEY

The congressional agreement reached on Monday falls far short of giving Trump all the money he wants to help build the wall. Instead, congressional sources say, it includes $1.37 billion for new barriers – about the same as last year – along 55 miles (90 km) of the border.

Details of the legislation were still being written, but the full bill could be made public as early as Wednesday evening, according to lawmakers and congressional aides.

The accord must be passed by the House of Representatives, dominated by Democrats, and the Republican-controlled Senate, then signed by Trump by midnight on Friday to prevent a shutdown.

The measure’s fate in the House was far from certain given the risk that some conservatives and liberals will oppose the compromise for different reasons.

Like Trump, congressional Republicans have little appetite for a repeat of the 35-day partial shutdown in December and January – the longest in U.S. history – which closed about a quarter of federal agencies and left some 800,000 federal workers without pay.

“It’s time to get this done,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor on Wednesday, in reference to voting on the compromise.

Democrats in the House are aiming to schedule a vote on Thursday evening, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, told reporters. If passed, it would then go to the Senate.

OTHER OPTIONS

A White House spokeswoman, Mercedes Schlapp, told CNN that lawyers were reviewing the administration’s options should Congress not provide Trump’s demanded money for the wall.

The Washington Post, citing a White House official, said Trump was likely to explore using his executive power to reallocate other federal funds for barrier projects along the southern border. CNN, citing the White House, also said Trump was weighing the use of an executive order, among other options.

Trump previously threatened to declare a “national emergency” if Congress did not provide money specifically for the wall – a move that would almost certainly draw opposition in Congress and in the courts.

“We think the president would be on very weak legal ground to proceed,” said Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House.

Speaking to sheriffs and police chiefs of major cities, Trump said later on Wednesday that he was determined to “fully and completely” secure the U.S. border, including providing more law enforcement, closing legal loopholes and finishing the border wall.

Trump has come in for criticism from the right for wavering on support for the wall, which the administration says will cut illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

“Trump talks a good game on the border wall, but it’s increasingly clear he’s afraid to fight for it,” right-wing commentator Ann Coulter tweeted on Tuesday.

Trump abandoned a planned compromise on funding for the wall in December after similar criticism.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Amanda Becker, Susan Heavey and Lisa Lambert; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)