Trump threatens COVID relief bill, testing loyalty of GOP

Full Screen
1 / 5

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2020, file phoot President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. The most improbable of presidents, Donald Trump reshaped the office and shattered its centuries-old norms and traditions while dominating the national discourse like no one before. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON – Threatening to tank Congress’ massive COVID relief and government funding package, President Donald Trump’s demand for bigger aid checks for Americans is forcing Republicans traditionally wary of such spending into an uncomfortable test of allegiance.

On Thursday, House Democrats who also favor $2,000 checks will all but dare Republicans to break with Trump, calling up his proposal for a Christmas Eve vote. The president's last-minute objection could derail critical legislation amid a raging pandemic and deep economic uncertainty. His attacks risk a federal government shutdown by early next week.

"Just when you think you have seen it all," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote Wednesday in a letter to colleagues.

“The entire country knows that it is urgent for the President to sign this bill, both to provide the coronavirus relief and to keep government open.”

Republicans led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have resisted $2,000 checks as too costly. House Republicans are expected to block the vote, but Democrats may try again Monday.

The president's last-minute objections are setting up a defining showdown with his own Republican Party in his final days in office.

Rather than take the victory of the sweeping aid package, among the biggest in history, Trump is lashing out at GOP leaders over the presidential election — for acknowledging Joe Biden as president-elect and rebuffing his campaign to dispute the Electoral College results when they are tallied in Congress on Jan. 6.

The president’s push to increase direct payments for most Americans from $600 to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for couples splits the party with a politically painful loyalty test, including for GOP senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, fighting to retain their seats in the Jan. 5 special election in Georgia.