Second stimulus check news summary, 23 December: $2000 payment, amount, eligibility...

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LIVE: Trump demands changes to $900 billion relief bill

On Tuesday evening President Trump gave a statement suggesting he would veto the bill unless the size of the stimulus checks is upped to $2,000 per person and a number of other provisions are removed

The new coronavirus stimulus package had taken months of negotiations and was finally passed by Congress with successful votes in the Senate and the House on Monday. Democrat lawmakers have now proposed ammendments to include $2,000 checks. 

Here are your headlines:

- President Trump threatens to veto the bill (full details)

- New $900bn covid-19 relief bill has been passed by Congress (full details)

- Trump is demanding $600 stimulus checks are increased to $2,0000

- Democrats in Congress propose ammendment to up stimulus check payments to $2,000 per person

- Pelosi wants $2,000 stimulus checks: "Let’s do it!"

- Markets take a hit with stimulus bill uncertainty

- Risk of Trump veto puts $1.4trn federal spending bill in danger, threatening government shutdown

$600, $1,200, $2,400... How big will your second stimulus check be?

Although the basic amount provided by the second round of stimulus checks is considerably lower than first time around, they do include more money for households with dependents.

More details:

A bird in hand is better than two in the bush 

Rachel Maddow explains why a new relief bill could be riskier proposition than holding onto the one in hand due to the “pocket veto” Trump could use on a reworked stimulus bill.

“Rotten to the core” 

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska has never made a secret of his distaste for Trump even comparing him to David Duke during the 2016 election. However during Trump’s presidency he held his tongue trying to develop a “working relationship.” However with the events of 2020 Sasse is no longer holding back and expressed his disgust with the President’s latest pardons in a statement, “This is rotten to the core.”

Trump hands out 26 more pardons 

Trump issued more pardons for political allies, friends and people involved in the Russia investigation. Notable new additions to his growing list of people he has pardoned are: 

Paul Manafort: Former campaign advisor who was sentenced by a federal judge to seven years. He was released to home confinement in early 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic. 

Roger Stone: A former political advisor who was found guilty for obstruction of Congress and threatening a witness. Trump commuted his sentence days before he was to enter federal custody earlier this year. 

Charles Kushner: Jared Kushner’s father who was prosecuted for tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign contributions in the early 2000s. 

Margaret Hunter:  Former wife of Duncan Hunter, who himself received a pardon the day before. Both were found guilty for using the at the time House GOP member’s campaign funds for personal use. He was an early supporter of Trump.

Trumps off to Florida

President Donald Trump has left the White House to spend Christmas at his Mar-a-Lago resort, his first extended trip out of Washington since the election. He leaves behind a city in disarray after expressing his dissatisfaction with the stimulus package that took Congress nine months to negotiate and a fiscal cliff to finally pass.

What happens if Trump vetoes the stimulus bill? 

The $900 stimulus bill was attached to the $1.4 trillion government spending bill for a grand total of $2.3 trillion, as Trump has left the fate of both in the air as he leaves Washington to go to Mar-a-Lago. On Monday the government will run out of funding, which would lead to a government shutdown, when the latest spending stopgap expires.  

If that happens, the consequences will be felt across the spectrum, including areas vital to tackling the pandemic. In past shutdowns non-essential government employees have been furloughed while government employees dealing with public safety forced to work without pay. 

Vaccine distribution relies on staff in the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services for support. It would also stop funds from the federal government to states to help with the vaccine rollout. 

The CDC one of the agencies now leading the response to the coronavirus pandemic could see workers put on leave as in past shutdowns. During the 2018 flu outbreak the agencies kept its program to track the outbreak going despite the shutdown. 

Unemployment benefits through pandemic programs are set to lapse on Saturday unless extended through the stimulus bill. And the eviction moratorium will end 31 December.

The stimulus bill has been “tainted” 

As per Maggie Haberman House GOP members spoke via conference call with Kevin McCarthy who discussed the bill with the President Trump. Trump hasn’t decided whether he will veto the bill as he heads off to Mar-a-Lago. McCarthy told his Republican colleagues that they need to address the President’s concerns about the bill. But in McCarty’s words the “bill has been tainted.” Another person on the call reportedly said the “Trump threw House GOP under the bus.”

$2000 stimulus checks bad policy 

Paul Krugman took to twitter arguing that the call for larger stimulus checks might be popular but it isn't the right answer to our current situation 

“Dems are gleefully signing on to Trump's demand for $2000 checks, hoping to embarrass [Republicans]; fair enough. And it would do no harm, since debt is not a problem given negative real interest rates. But the way this is playing out is still bad news for the future.” 

“Where we are now is that a minority of American have suffered a catastrophic loss of income, which is likely to last at least 6 months, while many have suffered no loss at all. Sending everyone a check is not a good response for someone who won't have earnings until we have mass vaccination, even a $2000 check isn't remotely enough to compensate for the loss of that $300 a week extra unemployment benefit starting in mid-March.” 

I support President @realDonaldTrump's demand to increase direct payments for long-suffering Americans to $2,000 per person. 

Lindsey Graham, senior South Carolina Senator

Should you tap your 401(k) 

As in the CARES Act, the new $900 billion coronavirus relief legislation passed on Monday allows workers to withdraw money from their 401(k) penalty-free. Anyone can take up to $100,000 from their account, currently without eligibility requirements as all 50 states are designated major disaster areas as a result of the pandemic. But there is no such thing as a free lunch, financial planners say raiding a 401(k) account should be a last resort and could lead to “eternal financial sadness."

Wall St

Stocks shrug off Trump's stimulus threat

Stocks rose on Wednesday as investors waved away a threat by U.S. President Donald Trump not to sign a pandemic relief bill.

In a video posted on Twitter, Trump said a stimulus bill, agreed upon after months of wrangling in Congress, was "a disgrace" and that he wanted to increase "ridiculously low" $600 payments for individuals to $2,000.

The benchmark S&P 500 U.S. stock index nonetheless rose in morning trade as cyclical sectors such as energy and financials expected to benefit most from an economic recovery led in percentage gains. S&P 500 futures had fallen overnight in response to Trump's threat but later recovered.

DT

Trump's covid bill delay leaves millions of desperate Americans in limbo

President Donald Trump's threat late Tuesday to veto the $892 billion coronavirus relief bill approved by Congress this week may delay aid for millions of families on the cusp of eviction and about to lose unemployment benefits.

Trump's apparent refusal to immediately sign the bill "has injected uncertainty or worse into the effort to protect millions of Americans from falling over a financial cliff," said Mark Hamrick of Bankrate Wednesday.

Trump said the bill, which passed Congress Monday night, did not provide enough support for small businesses, and he asked Congress to increase stimulus checks to individuals to $2,000, instead of the “ridiculously low” $600 in the bill.

Many economists agree the bill's aid is too low, but say the immediate support to the economy is still welcome and necessary.

Funding bill spending is actually less than Trump's original proposal

President Trump threw the future of the joint stimulus/federal funding bill into doubt last night when he demanded that Congress send him an ammended version without what he deemed to be unneccessary spending

He complained that over a billion dollars was being given to Kennedy Center, National Gallery and Smithsonian, but White House reporter Kevin Liptak has pointed out that the Trump administration had actually suggested slightly higher spending in the past. An embaressing moment for the President, but he seems unlikely to back down. 

Trump calls for ammendments to stimulus and government funding bill

The President is clearly unhappy with the new coronavirus stimulus and federal funding bill, but after months of negotiations in Congress can he change it at this late stage?

Can the stimulus check dispute be solved before Christmas?

The timeframe on agreeing a new round of stimulus checks in this Congressional session has gone from slim to miniscule. However, it is still possible for the bill (with some ammendments) to be passed before Christmas Day

Fox News Congress correspondent Chad Pergram goes on to say: "This would come during the pro forma session scheduled for Christmas Eve Day. Democrats will dare GOPers to obect..if any are there. Entire process will take 30 seconds."

It would take just one member to object and the bill will not be passed. Would anyone be willing to do so?

In the bipartisan negotiations, Leader Schumer and I repeatedly asked Republicans what would be the highest number the President would accept for direct payments, and they responded with Sphinx-like silence.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House

What did Trump say about a $2000 payment and the bill?

Trump has put the fate of stimulus package in doubt calling it a "disgrace" telling Congress to “amend it” or it will be left to the next administration. With so little time left before Christmas the bill may now have to wait until the New Year unless a compromise is not found. 

Trump's late involvement criticised by Clark

Assistant Speaker-Elect and Rep. for Massachusetts Katherine Clark has hit out at the President's decision to wade into the stimulus bill discussion so late in the day. As Clark points out, Trump had not been involved in the negotiations for months, even telling his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to withdraw from talks at one point, so he could focus on Supreme Court nominations. 

Government funding bill causes confusion on coronavirus stimulus package

During his speech posted on social media last night, Trump demanded that the laws which he deems irrelevant to tackling the pandemic be removed from the package. However this misunderstands the nature of the bill that Congress voted for on Monday. 

There are two primary elements to the package, which is also known as an omnibus bill:

1. a financial stimulus bill aimed at helping those affected by covid-19

2. a government spending bill, part of the annual business of Congress which ensure that government can keep running

Although essentially unrelated, the two were combined in a single legislative package to speed up the process and ensure that they are passed before Congress breaks for Christmas. 

Trump issues presidential pardons for Blackwater killers

The four men convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad that left more than a dozen Iraqi civilians dead have been pardoned by President Trump in his final weeks in office.

The killings were ruled as unlawful after prosecutors asserted the heavily armed Blackwater convoy launched an unprovoked attack using sniper fire, machine guns and grenade launchers. Defense lawyers argued their clients returned fire after being ambushed by Iraqi insurgents.

They were convicted in 2014 after a months-long trial in Washington’s federal court, and each man defiantly asserted his innocence at a sentencing hearing the following year. All four have been serving lengthly prison sentences. 

Dems in Congress happy to support stand-alone bill for $2,000 checks

Representative for Philidelphia Brendan Boyle has co-sponsored an ammendment to the covid-19 economic relief bill that would see the amount provided to each American upped from $600 to $2,000. Boyle, who referred to Trump as the "Crime Minister" in an earlier tweet, has now called on the GOP to support his late statement. 

Trump's calls for greater stimulus spending have put him at odds with the rest of the Republican party, who had largely been content with the $600 stimulus checks included in the proposed stimulus bill. 

Trump’s threat to block the US stimulus bill has all the hallmarks of populism (he is in favour of a one off Payment of $2,000 as opposed to the bill’s $600, and wants cuts to envisaged foreign spending), but also of the scorched earth policy that has been so evident since the election.

Marc Ostwald , ADM Investor Services

How could Trump veto the stimulus bill?

In an explosive speech last night Trump called the stimulus check provision "ridiculously low" and called for a number of ammendments, but if they are not forthcoming what could the President do?

As Fox News' Chad Pergram points out, Trump didn't outright say he will veto the coronavirus/government spending bill, but he does have the power to prevent it from being law, via a pocket veto.

Pocket vetoes are very rare. Congress has to be in the proper parliamentary posture for this possibility to be in play. But we could very well be in those circumstances now. If he chooses to do so it will likely see the talks drag on into the new year. 

We spent months trying to secure $2000 checks but Republicans blocked it.

Trump needs to sign the bill to help people and keep the government open and we're glad to pass more aid Americans need. Maybe Trump can finally make himself useful and get Republicans not to block it again.

Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader

Will Trump's stimulus bill intervention cost the Republicans in the Senate?

The President's late rebuttal of the covid-19 stimulus package seems to place a wedge between himself and the Senate, where the GOP currently hold the majority. Trump has called for larger stimulus checks, as was called for by Democrats but largely dismissed by Republican Senators

If Trump is to go to war with the Senate so close to the vital runoff election in Georgia on 5 January, he could end up costing his party dearly. Actor and author George Takei draws the line between the two here. 

Trump furious at the Senate

The President's statement last night throws the stimulus bill in doubt and he appears to have fallen out with the GOP-held Senate over a number of different issues. The stimulus checks were limited to $600 in large part due to Republicans in the Upper House being unwilling to pass a larger bill. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued that a package like the CARES Act was unneccessary now. 

Trump has also been angered by McConnell's recognition of Biden's election win, and has hit out at RINOs (Republican In Name Only) who have not furthered his election challenges. 

New $2,000 stimulus check ammendment drafted by Congresswoman Tlaib

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib was one of 59 lawmakers to vote against the covid-19 stimulus bill, calling it insufficient to meet the needs of struggling Americans. After Trump's speech last night, in which he called for $2,000 stimulus checks to be offered, she has duly onbliged with a new ammendment

She and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are proposing that the direct payment is upped. Interestingly, although AOC publically called for $2,000 checks, she actually voted in favour of the stimulus bill on Monday. 

Trump issues a spate of pardons for political allies

Two men sentenced to prison as part of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and two former Republican lawmakers were among 15 people granted full pardons by U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday.

Included in the pardons are:

- Duncan Hunter, a former Republican congressman from California who pleaded guilty last year to misusing campaign funds. He was sentenced to 11 months’ imprisonment set to begin in January 2021.

- Chris Collins, a former Republican representative from New York who pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to commit securities fraud and making false statements to the FBI. Collins, who had been the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Trump's candidacy in 2016, is serving his 26-month sentence.

- George Papadopoulos, 33, a former Trump campaign aide who pleaded guilty as part of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. He pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to FBI agents about the timing and significance of his contacts with people who claimed to have ties to top Russian officials.

- Alex van der Zwaan, the Dutch son-in-law of Russian billionaire German Khan. Van der Zwaan was sentenced to 30 days in prison and fined $20,000 for lying to U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators about contacts with an official in Trump’s 2016 campaign.

 

'Three-martini lunch' tax break draws criticism

Of all the finer details of the stimulus bill to have emerged in recent days few have been more controversial than the 'three-martini lunch' provision. The new law would allow companies to receive tax breaks on corporate dining i.e. taking a client out for lunch, because this is considered a business expense. 

However this benefit usually sees people order more lavishly than they normally would, leaving the tax payer to foot part of the bill for the 'third martini'. Trump has repeatedly tweeted in favour of the deduction and is thought to have been a big reason for its introduction, having been overturned in 2017. 

More reaction to the bill

Mr Willimon will be another hoping that Trump's refusal to sign the bill leads to the Democrats getting their way and having a higher payment agreed by Congress.

Trump gives Mitch the itch

Whether he meant it or not, the lame duck president has not only given Democrats the ammunition to push for greater stimulus check amounts, but also has put Senate leader McConnell in a potentially tricky position.

"There's been some friction with from the president of the United States and Sen. McConnell," Axios political reporter Hans Nichols explained.

"Clearly, that friction has increased. So, Republicans are in a jam. The whole entire -- what they do -- remember, this morning, the president signed a six-to-seven-day solution that just funds the government. It has implications for the Georgia senate race."

Here's how Raw Story see it...

"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. Let’s do it!"

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House

Did Dems miss a trick?

Young Turks executive producer Ana Kasparian points to Donald Trump's words from just a week ago, and asks if this could have been used as strong support for their desire to have a larger check agreed for Americans.

ICYMI: Trump threatens not to sign stimulus package

President Trump has asked Congress to rework the $2.3 trillion bill passed on Monday which included a $900 billion covid-19 relief package. He wants Congress to cut out the pork barrel spending which he in his words "has almost nothing to do with" covid-19 relief and doesn't go to Americans. He also wants the stimulus checks to be $2000 instead of the $600 agreed to.

"Send me a suitable bill or the next administration will have to deliver a covid relief package. And maybe that administration will be me."  Trump

Pelosi calls Trump's bluff

President Trump took to Twitter to deliver a live video message slamming the just-passed spending package, saying that the covid-19 relief package was insufficient and has little to do with the coronavirus. In addition he called "ridiculous" the $600 amount for direct payments, instead calling on Congress to raise that amount to $2000 for each taxpayer.

Nancy Pelosi answered his call and says she is ready to bring his proposal to the floor of the House.

Trump is leaving town for Christmas

After lobbing a hand grenade at Congress with the indirect threat of a vetoing the just-passed $900 covid-19 relief bill which is part of the $2.3 trillion bill that funds the government, it appears President Trump won't stay around to help in any negotiations he hopes will take place. 

He is heading to Mar-a-Lago according to his schedule for Wednesday. The government will run out of funding on Monday if the legislation isn't signed.

Dominion employee sues Trump campaign for defamation

Some recent post-election developments could make the pushers of fake news think again.

A senior employee of Dominion Voting Systems has sued President Donald Trump's re-election campaign in a Colorado court for spreading false conspiracy theories related to November's presidential election that Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden. Eric Coomer, director of product strategy and security for the voting technology company, sued Trump's campaign and senior associates, including attorney Sidney Powell and the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, for defamation, according to a court document dated 22 December reported by Colorado Public Radio.

The filing with the state District Court in Denver said the defendants, including pro-Trump news outlets One America News Network and Newsmax Media, made baseless assertions that Coomer 'sits at the center of a national conspiracy to fraudulently elect the President of the United States.'

The lawsuit claims that Trump's campaign and its agents 'manufactured and spread a false narrative' that Dominion 'conspired to rig its equipment and the election in favor of President-Elect Biden', which led to 'devastating consequences', including death threats which forced Coomer to leave his home for fear of his safety.

'Defendants, by their actions, have elevated Dr. Coomer into the national spotlight, invaded his privacy, threatened his security, and fundamentally defamed his reputation across this country,' the document said. Trump, who has refused to concede his election defeat and continues to make baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, has routinely lost court cases that he and his supporters have filed around the country to try to overturn the election results.

A call to Newsmax's office was not answered outside of business hours. Reuters and other news media have debunked various claims spread widely on social media after the 3 November election that Dominion was linked to election fraud. Biden is set to be inaugurated as president on 20 January.

A hidden 'rich benefit' provision

The votes may have been cast, and the $900 billion bill may have passed through Congress, but now that more eyes are getting through the 5,593 pages of it, further questions are being raised. It's just as AOC said, these things need to be properly scrutinised.

This particular one, reported in the NYT, involves the tens of thousands of businesses that received loans from the federal government this spring with the promise that the loans would be forgiven, tax free, if they agreed to keep employees on the payroll through the coronavirus pandemic.

But for some businesses and their high-paid accountants, that was not enough. They went to Congress with another request: Not only should the forgiven loans not to be taxed as income, but the expenditures used with those loans should be tax deductible.

“High-income business owners have had tax benefits and unprecedented government grants showered down upon then. And the scale is massive,” said Adam Looney, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former Treasury Department tax official in the Obama administration, who estimated that $120 billion of the $200 billion would flow to the top 1 percent of Americans.

Trump demands changes to $900 billion relief bill

After months of negotiations a new coronavirus stimulus package has finally been passed by Congress after successful votes in the Senate and the House on Monday.

But on Tuesday evening President Trump gave a statement claiming that he would veto the billunless the size of the stimulus checks is upped to $2,000 per person and a number of other provisions are removed. 

Here are your headlines:

- President Trump threatens to veto the bill (full details)

- New $900bn covid-19 relief bill has been passed by Congress (full details)

- Trump is demanding $600 stimulus checks are increased to $2,0000

- Pelosi wants $2,000 stimulus checks: "Let’s do it!"

- Markets take a hit with stimulus bill uncertainty

- Risk of Trump veto puts $1.4trn federal spending bill in danger, threatening government shutdown

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