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Trump urges Congress to amend ‘wasteful’ coronavirus aid bill

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BBC


US President Trump has urged Congress to amend a $900bn (£670bn) coronavirus relief bill to more than triple its stimulus payments to Americans.

In a video message posted on Twitter, he said the package “really is a disgrace”, full of “wasteful” items.

“It’s called the Covid relief bill, but it has almost nothing to do with Covid,” he said.

The $900bn bill includes one-off $600 payments to most Americans, but Mr Trump said the figure should be $2,000.

The Republican president, who leaves office on 20 January, had been expected to sign the sprawling legislation into law following its passage through Congress on Monday night.

But in Tuesday night’s message from the White House,  Trump baulked at spending in the bill on other countries, arguing that this money should go to struggling Americans.

He said: “This bill contains $85.5m for assistance to Cambodia, $134m to Burma, $1.3bn for Egypt and the Egyptian military, which will go out and buy almost exclusively Russian military equipment, $25m for democracy and gender programmes in Pakistan, $505m to Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.”

The president questioned why the Kennedy Center, a performing arts complex in Washington DC, was set to receive $40m when it is not open, and more than $1bn has been allocated to museums and galleries in the capital.

Trump concluded: “Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests, while sending the bare minimum to the American people who need it. It wasn’t their fault. It was China’s fault.

“I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple.

“I’m also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation and to send me a suitable bill, or else the next administration will have to deliver a Covid relief package.”

Trump’s statement stunned Capitol Hill, plunging the long-awaited aid bill into turmoil.

He has not yet received the bill. But if the president vetoes or refuses to sign it by midnight next Monday, the US government could shut down because the package was attached to a $1.4tn spending measure to fund federal agencies for the next nine months.