GOP Rep Slams Trump for Doubling Back on Stimulus Checks, Says White House Rejected $2K

Representative Peter King called out President Donald Trump Wednesday for reversing course on direct payments to Americans after Congress finally reached a long-awaited deal on an economic relief package.

Calling into radio's Joe Piscopo Show, the New York Republican said he agreed with those who think the $600 stimulus checks approved by lawmakers Monday aren't enough but criticized the president for threatening to not sign the legislation.

"Why didn't the president say this before? Why did his administration say it had to be $600?" King asked. "They were the ones driving this."

The retiring congressman added: "Nancy Pelosi wanted $2,000 all along, and I'm not a Pelosi fan. Bernie Sanders wanted $2,000. The president and his administration refused to give it, and now he's trying to somehow double back. He's leaving Republicans out there hanging out to dry after signing off on an agreement and asking us to vote for it."

On Tuesday night, Trump released a video online calling the stimulus package "a disgrace." The president called on Congress to increase the "ridiculously low" $600 direct payment to $2,000—a sum that had been proposed by several Democrats over the past nine months.

Both the House and the Senate overwhelmingly approved the $900 billion bill to provide aid to households and businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The measure—which includes $600 cash payments for Americans making $75,000 or less—passed 359-53 in the House and 92-6 in the Senate. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said people could start receiving the checks as early as next week.

"You think all of the Republican senators wouldn't have voted for it if the Trump administration didn't tell us to?" King asked. "So I'm really disappointed in the president."

Negotiations for the relief package were stalled for nearly nine months as Republicans and Democrats disagreed over the size and scope of the bill. In May, the Democrats passed their own package, the $3 trillion HEROES Act, which included $1,200 payments, but it failed in the Senate. The GOP-controlled chamber attempted to pass its own $500 billion bill in October, but the effort ultimately failed.

King said that it was the Trump administration that "led the negotiations" and that they knew about the compromise bill "from beginning to end."

Representative Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) criticized Treasury Secretary Mnuchin for his role in the negotiations after Trump came out in opposition to the bill. According to The New York Times, Mnuchin had 190 calls about the package between December 14 and 20 that included the president.

"Were you just making stuff up during the Covid relief negotiations? If you weren't speaking for @realDonaldTrump, then who were you speaking for?" Lieu tweeted, addressing Mnuchin.

donald trump south lawn white house 12/12/2020
President Donald Trump on the White House's South Lawn on December 12. On Tuesday, Trump threatened to not sign a new economic relief bill passed in Congress. Al Drago/Getty

Democrats have welcomed Trump's push for $2,000 stimulus checks with open arms. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her chamber was ready to bring the issue to the floor by unanimous consent this week. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted Wednesday that Democrats were completely united on the matter, but asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell if his caucus had "the heart to give the American people the relief they've needed for months?"

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont responded to Trump's proposal with the tweet: "That's great! I first introduced a bill to provide a $2,000 direct payment with @SenKamalaHarris & @EdMarkey 7 months ago. Now, Mr. President, get Mitch McConnell and your Republican friends to stop opposing it and we can provide working class Americans with $2,000. Let's do it."

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.