Members of Congress thought their work was done. They could go home and enjoy Christmas. Maybe not.
In a video posted to Twitter Tuesday night, President Trump made clear he's unhappy with aspects of the bipartisan spending bill lawmakers passed Monday night, which included about $900 billion in pandemic relief.
The president had been largely uninvolved in the negotiations over what to include in the relief package, leaving it to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to speak for the administration.
All indications, prior to last night, were that President Trump would sign the legislation into law.
A key component of the COVID-19 relief package is another round of stimulus payments for most Americans: $600 for individuals with annual income less than $75,000, and $1,200 for couples making less than $150,000. President Trump says that's not nearly enough.
"I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple," the president stated in the video.
Many Democrats had wanted stimulus payments equal to those authorized in March's CARES Act: $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for couples. It was primarily Republicans and Secretary Mnuchin who advocated for the smaller payments, wanting to minimize the cost of the package, President Trump said they could do that by getting rid of all the waste in the bill.
"Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests," Mr. Trump claimed, "while sending the bare minimum to the American people, who need it -- wasn't their fault."
Some Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have embraced the president's demand and are urging the rest of Congress to get on board. It's expected that Pelosi will attempt to amend the legislation through unanimous consent Thursday, but it's unclear if Republicans will go along.
One Republican member of Oklahoma's delegation, Rep. Kevin Hern, (R) OK-1, supports the larger stimulus payments President Trump wants, along with his desire to get rid of elements they consider unnecessary.
"I believe that we can pay for these direct payments by eliminating the waste and unnecessary spending in the package," said Rep. Hern in a statement released Wednesday morning.
Hern was among the 359 House members to vote for the package, but also stated, "I do wish that Secretary Mnuchin…would have been honest with us when he said he spoke for President Trump, asking Republicans to vote for the previous proposal."
In his video, President Trump spoke about other changes he would like for Congress to make, including targeting more aid to struggling industries.
"Not enough money is given to small businesses," the president stated, “and in particular restaurants, whose owners have suffered so grievously."
If Congress doesn't make the changes the president is demanding, it's not clear at this point whether he would actually veto the spending/relief bills, potentially throwing the economy into even greater chaos.
An unpredictable president in his last weeks in office has everyone guessing.