US President Donald Trump finally relented on Sunday, signing into law a bill that will provide $900 billion in Covid-19 relief for American families and business, and $1.4 trillion to keep the federal government funded until September.
Trump reversed his position as inexplicably as he had announced his objections to the bill’s terms earlier last week.
The spending legislation had been negotiated by his administration and passed with wide majorities in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and Republican-led Senate.
Trump conveyed his decision in a statement on Sunday evening, a day after jobless benefits for an estimated 14 million Americans expired because of delay to the bill being taken up by the US president.
The stimulus package will include $600 in direct payment to every qualifying American, assistance for small businesses, and funds for the states for the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.
“I am signing this bill to restore unemployment benefits, stop evictions, provide rental assistance, add money for PPP (Paycheck Protection Programme — assistance to companies to keep employees on their rolls), return our airline workers back to work, add substantially more money for vaccine distribution, and much more,” Trump said in the statement.
The outgoing president went on to list concessions he had claimed to obtain for signing the bill. He said, for instance, the House will vote to increase direct payments from $600 to $2,000 as he had been demanding.
The House is expected to pass a measure to that effect on Monday, but the Senate is unlikely to clear it.
Trump also said he will be sending a “redlined” version of the bill for the removal of wasteful expenditure. But there was no enthusiasm for it among lawmakers.
He further claimed that congress will “review” a law that protects social media platforms from liability for their content, and also, there will be “focus” on voter fraud. Neither of these claims is expected to be met.
The US president won no real concessions by delaying his nod to a bill that was negotiated and crafted by officials of his own administration, led by treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, and was passed with overwhelming support by both chambers of congress.