$2,000 Stimulus Check Latest, Trump Demands Bill Cuts 'The Pork' Ahead of House Vote

President Donald Trump has defended his decision not to sign a bipartisan COVID relief bill, insisting the provisions of $600 stimulus checks were not adequate.

Congress approved the $900 million relief package after months of tortuous negotiations, but Trump is yet to approve it and demanded the next round of checks be raised to $2,000.

A vote on increasing the stimulus payments to $2,000 will take place on Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has confirmed.

Provisions included in the relief bill, would see unemployment benefits remain in place until March and state benefits increase by $300 a week, providing $600 direct payments to millions of Americans.

The bill also extends a moratorium on evictions and provides federal loans to small businesses. The package, however, remains on hold as Trump surprisingly refused to green light it and branded it a "disgrace" last week.

The president renewed his stance over the weekend, suggesting the provisions of $600 stimulus checks were too small just hours before the midnight deadline was due to pass.

"I simply want to get our great people $2,000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill. Also, stop the billions of dollars in 'pork'", he tweeted on Saturday, referencing the spending on foreign aid and arts venues provisions included in the bill.

Trump had made a similar point a day earlier, as he renewed his attack on China, blaming Beijing for the coronavirus pandemic.

"Made many calls and had meetings at Trump International in Palm Beach, Florida," he tweeted on Friday.

"Why would politicians not want to give people $2,000, rather than only $600? It wasn't their fault, it was China. Give our people the money!"

An estimated 12 million Americans are now set to lose jobless benefits, including those relying on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance which made unemployment insurance available to self-employed, freelancers, gig workers and others who do not normally qualify.

Should the $1.4 trillion government funding bill, which the coronavirus packages are attached to, not be signed by midnight Tuesday, a shutdown of the federal government will be triggered.

The delicate circumstances surrounding the bill have seen the president's refusal to approve the relief package met with criticism from both sides of the political divide.

In a statement, President-elect Joe Biden warned of the "devastating consequences" facing millions of Americans as a result of Trump's actions.

"This abdication of responsibility has devastating consequences. [...] This bill is critical," the statement read.

"It needs to be signed into law now."

On Saturday, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) said Trump's refusal to approve the relief bill was puzzling and spoke volumes for how "frightened" the Republican Party was to stand up to him.

"Fought hard for $1,200, at least what we had in the C.A.R.E.S. Act. The president and his negotiator [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin and the Republicans refused it," Waters told CNN.

"Then out of the blue, the president came out and said he wanted $2,000. I don't know what kind of game he's playing.

"I don't know what the Republicans are going to do, but, you know, they're all frightened of him and he's intimidated him. They have no guts. See if he's going to make them come up with support for the $2,000."

On Saturday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), described Trump's action as "cruel" and called for Republicans to put pressure on the president to ensure the bill was approved.

"It is underhanded and cruel for the president now to refuse to sign it into law and potentially end this brutal year by inflicting even more pain and suffering on families in need," he said in a statement. "Republican leadership in Congress should join in calling for the signing of this legislation—which they helped write and voted for—to extend this crucial aid."

Earlier this week, however, the president won the support of senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who spent part of Christmas Day playing golf with Trump at his West Palm Beach, Florida, resort.

Graham, who initially backed the stimulus package, was supportive of Trump's demands.

"I am convinced he is more determined than ever to increase stimulus payments to $2,000 per person and challenge Section 230 big tech liability protection," he tweeted.

"Both are reasonable demands, and I hope Congress is listening. The biggest winner would be the American people."

Support for Trump, however, is far from unanimous within the ranks of the Republican Party.

"I wish he [Trump] had made that pitch for $2,000 as vociferously over the last three weeks as after the bill was passed," Rep. French Hill (R-AR) told FOX on Saturday.

"It might have given us more leverage to get a slightly higher payment. [...] It's going to be extraordinarily hard to get that payment through the Senate and the House."

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump walk towards Marine One on December 23, as they depart the White House en route to Mar-a-Lago. President Donald Trump has thrown a long-awaited pandemic relief package as millions of Americans are set to lose their benefits and face eviction from their homes. Photo by SAMUEL CORUM/AFP/Getty