Republican Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger said Sunday that President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign a $900 billion relief package Congress passed last week and allow critical benefits to lapse for millions of jobless Americans “shows the chaos of the whole thing.”
Kinzinger is one of several members of the President’s party urging him to sign the bill in the final days of his presidency to deliver much-needed aid to Americans ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We passed it because this was the agreed upon number,” Kinzinger, an outspoken critic of Trump, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” Sunday of the bipartisan package.
The Covid-19 relief legislation, which had arrived at Mar-a-Lago by Friday to await Trump’s signature, would extend the number of weeks people can stay on two key pandemic unemployment programs and increase weekly benefits by $300 for all through mid-March.
During negotiations with Congress, Trump largely sat on the sidelines but after the relief package’s passage last week, the President has complained that the provision included to give up to $600 in direct payments to jobless individuals who qualify is not enough. Trump wants to send out $2,000 stimulus checks.
Kinzinger, who dismissed Trump’s baseless claims about electoral fraud earlier this month and warned his Republican colleagues of dire consequences if they failed to do the same, took issue with Trump’s inability to speak up sooner about the $2,000 checks.
“It’s what the President negotiated. And then for him to come out and say, ‘Now I’m going to veto it for the $2,000 checks.’ Fine, if you want to make it $2,000 checks, negotiate that from the beginning. Let’s have the discussion after this bill is signed because right now we’re at a point where people are left out in the dark,” Kinzinger said.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, appearing on “State of the Union,” echoed the need for the President to sign the relief package, bluntly saying that if the President wanted increased payments, he should have “weighed in” earlier.
“He should have weighed in eight months ago. We’ve been fighting for this since March or April. Or at least eight days ago, and not after they finally reached agreement,” Hogan, who did not vote for Trump’s reelection, told Bash.
Hogan added that he also wants more help for the unemployed but that doesn’t mean the President should resist signing the legislation.
“We’d like to see more help get out to the struggling small businesses and the folks that are unemployed and need this money desperately. But this took a long time. Eight months of dysfunction and divisiveness in Congress,” Hogan said. “There’s plenty of blame to go around, but now we’ve reached an agreement at least on something. It’s not enough. But it’s a step in the right direction. We need to get it done.”
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who is retiring at the end of his term, suggested on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump should sign the bill and then push for more relief.
“I understand the President would like to send bigger checks to everybody. I think what he ought to do is sign this bill and then make the case. Congress can pass another bill,” he said, adding his doesn’t agree with the $2,000 checks, but he believes the President is able to make that argument.
“I don’t agree with $2,000 checks to people who have had no lost income whatsoever, which is the vast majority of Americans. But the President’s free to make that case. Democrats will agree with that and see where it ends up. We’ve got a bill right now that his administration helped negotiate. I think we’ve gotta get that done,” Toomey added.
Passage of the rescue package through both chambers was an enormous undertaking and represented a bipartisan breakthrough after months of partisan stalemate and contentious disagreements.
One of the main sticking points that had to be overcome was a disagreement over how much the package should cost, with many Republicans warning that they could not accept a price tag that was too high.
After a deal finally came together, the President had been expected to back the package and the White House had indicated Trump would sign the legislation once it reached his desk.
But on Tuesday, Trump threw all of that into question when he signaled he wouldn’t sign the bill if Congress doesn’t amend the legislation and raise the “ridiculously low” $600 stimulus checks to $2,000 for individuals or $4,000 per couple.
The President has reinforced his disagreement with the $600 stimulus checks over the weekend in tweets as Americans saw benefits lapse.
Asked about the President’s motivation for letting benefits lapse, Kinzinger told Bash that he believes the only reason is to “create chaos and show power.”
“I don’t understand what’s being done. Why? Unless it’s just to create chaos and show power and be upset because you lost the election. Otherwise I don’t understand it,” Kinzinger said. “This just has to get done. Too many people are relying on this.”
The comments from the Republicans on Sunday follow frustrations over Trump’s lack of leadership aired last week by other members of the party.
Rep. Denver Riggleman, a Virginia Republican who is not returning to Congress, went so far as to say that it was “obvious” that the President “was sleeping on the job when it came to these negotiations.”
“That’s what happens when you get too wrapped up in an election you already lost,” Riggleman said Saturday night on CNN’s “Newsroom.”
And earlier last week, in the face of Trump’s threats to scuttle the relief package, House Republican lawmakers held a private call to discuss potential next steps, during which Rep. Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican, said Trump had thrown Republicans, who voted for the package in large numbers, “under the bus,” with his panning of the bill Tuesday night, according to a person on the call.
“I stand by what I said,” Bacon said in a statement later, noting the call was members-only and off the record. “The President’s Secretary of Treasury helped negotiate this bill and encouraged us to support it. Furthermore, the President was updated on this bill every step of the way by GOP Leadership.”