Donald Trump has finally signed a $2.3trn coronavirus relief and government funding package into law, avoiding a shutdown and ending his legislative chaos over critically needed federal relief after a last-minute decision to reject the measure.
The move by the outgoing president ended days of impasse after he initially refused to sign the bill, which contains $900bn in Covid-19-related aid, including direct payments, a moratorium on evictions, vaccine distributing funds and unemployment relief.
He had branded the bill a “disgrace” just days before eventually putting pen to paper.
Mr Trump had demanded lawmakers come back to him with a new proposal that included $2,000 checks for struggling Americans, instead of the $600 payments it includes.
The president was widely criticised for spending his Christmas vacation playing golf while the bill, which had been flown to Florida, sat on his desk unsigned.
“Good news on Covid Relief Bill,” tweeted the president before he signed the bill on Sunday night.
The Covid relief package extends unemployment benefits for millions of workers who have lost jobs during the pandemic, as well as the long-term unemployed.
Relief programmes for roughly 12 million people expired on 26 December, including an additional weekly $300 from the federal government. The president’s delays will trigger lapses in benefits for millions of people receiving aid.
After signing the bill, Mr Trump issued a statement in which he said he had "told Congress that I want far less wasteful spending and more money going to the American people in the form of $2,000 checks per adult and $600 per child."
“As president I am demanding many rescissions under the Impoundment Control Act of 1974,” he continued.
"I will sign the omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed.
"I will send back to Congress a redlined version, item by item, accompanied by the formal rescission request to Congress insisting that those funds be removed from the bill."
Mr Trump’s requests for changes are not legally binding, however, and with his presidency lasting less than a month and the 116th Congress ending on 3 January, he is likely to be ignored by lawmakers.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that Mr Trump's signature was “welcome news.”
Ms Pelosi also called on him to encourage Republicans to "end their obstruction" and support her party’s effort to increase direct Covid payments.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell praised Mr Trump for his “leadership” in preventing yet another government shutdown, but did not signal that Congress will take up any of the president’s demands.
"His leadership has prevented a government shutdown at a time when our nation could not have afforded one," said Mr McConnell.
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