Politics uninteresting Christmas as U.S. authorities shutdown approaches, COVID-19 help unsure

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump leaves the White House to vacation at his Florida home in Washington

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By Steve Holland and Tim Reid

PALM BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump spent Christmas Day golfing at his club in West Palm Beach while millions of Americans faced the risk of losing unemployment benefits on Saturday and a partial government shutdown next week, if he refuses to sign a $ 2.3 trillion coronavirus relief and spending package.

Democratic President-elect Joe Biden, whose victory Trump still does not recognize nearly two months after the November 3 election, spent the day at his Delaware home and, according to his staff, had no public events. Biden will take office on January 20th.

Trump stunned members of both parties this week when he unexpectedly announced his dislike of the $ 2.3 trillion spending bill, a package that had taken members of Congress months to negotiate. The bill provides coronavirus aid of $ 892 billion and regular government funding of $ 1.4 trillion.

A source familiar with the situation said many White House officials were surprised. Although his strategy for the bill is unclear, he could still sign the package as he has not made an explicit threat of veto.

The bill is now in Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida resort, pending his decision.

Without his signature on the Coronavirus Aid Bill, about 14 million people will lose unemployment benefits on Saturday and a partial government shutdown will begin on Tuesday.

Trump played golf with his close ally and Republican compatriot, Senator Lindsey Graham (NYSE :), said a source familiar with the president’s activities. The White House said he was informed of a vehicle explosion in Nashville that injured three people in what police called a “deliberate act”.

On Christmas Eve, Trump tweeted a number of complaints and repeated unsubstantiated allegations about the election result, including one directed at Senate Republicans who he accused of leaving him because many now publicly recognize Biden as winners.

Trump, who was represented by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in negotiations with lawmakers and had no objection to the terms prior to the House and Senate votes, complained that the package was too full for special interests and foreign aid. and said the $ 600 in direct payments to most Americans were too small and instead called for the amount to be increased to $ 2,000.

CONGRESS ON RETURN

Americans are enjoying an unprecedented holiday season amid a pandemic that has killed more than 320,000 people in the United States and the daily death toll repeatedly hits well over 3,000, the highest since the pandemic began.

Trump issued dozens of pardons this week, including former aides and four private security guards convicted of the murder of unarmed Iraqi civilians.

In the meantime, Congress, which is usually suspended in the last week of December, is preparing to return to work.

On Monday, after Christmas weekend, the House of Representatives is due to vote on Trump’s veto on a $ 740 billion bill approving the country’s defense programs. If the House vote is successful, the Senate could hold its vote as early as Tuesday.

Trump could also choose to take advantage of a situation known as a “pocket veto” rather than directly rejecting the coronavirus aid package.

With the current Congress expiring on Jan. 3, Trump could simply expire the normal 10-day deadline for a president to sign or veto a bill. Bills die if they are not enacted during the Congress in which they are introduced.

If he vetoed it, the House and Senate could try to override it next week. Congress may also have to pass an emergency law on Monday before the money funding government operations expires at midnight.

Also on Monday, the Democratic-controlled House plans to vote on laws to give individuals one-time checks of $ 2,000 to help them during the coronavirus pandemic.

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