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Politics & Government

Trump's Threat To Veto Latest Pandemic Relief Bill Leaves Congress In Chaos

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When President Trump called the coronavirus relief bill a disgrace and left Washington without signing it, that left Congress in chaos. Here's Michigan Democrat Debbie Dingell railing against Trump after a House floor session today.

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DEBBIE DINGELL: It is not a silent night. All is not calm. For too many, nothing is bright, and for too many, they are not sleeping peacefully.

SHAPIRO: President Trump has demanded $2,000 in direct payments to Americans, and Democrats tried to make that happen today. They failed to get that plan approved, but say they will try again next week. And to tell us more, we're joined by NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales.

Hi, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Tell us about what happened on the floor today.

GRISALES: Yes. They held a pro forma session. These are quick check-ins on the floor. And during today's session, Democrats tried to get this quick approval on new direct payments for Americans, but Republicans objected. And as we heard there at the top, Dingell gave very fiery remarks afterwards and took aim at Trump and literally begged him to gain an understanding of Americans who are hurting right now and sign this bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement after this failed attempt on the floor that the GOP, quote, "cruelly blocked these payments, and Trump should call on them to stop their obstruction."

So now Pelosi is saying she'll try again on Monday when the full House is in session to hold a roll-call vote on the plan. This is to make certain that every lawmaker is on record on how they feel about these payments. She also said she hopes by then the president will sign this legislation not only for the economic stimulus measures, but also because it contains full-year funding for the government. If he doesn't sign it by Monday, Congress will need to quickly move to pass a stopgap measure to avoid a government shutdown that day.

SHAPIRO: So people might be confused. But just to be clear, Republicans blocked Democrats from passing something that President Trump said he wanted. What are Republicans saying about that?

GRISALES: They're very frustrated. You can hear it. It's palpable. Nebraska Republican Representative Don Bacon said Trump threw Republicans under the bus as the White House told them to vote for this legislation when it passed both chambers on Monday. And many are just hoping Trump backs off his concerns and signs this bill in the coming days, especially with these concerns of a government shutdown. Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt spoke to Capitol Hill pool reporters about this today. Let's take a listen.

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ROY BLUNT: I believe we will not shut down. And I hope the president looks at this again and reaches that conclusion that the best thing to do is to sign the bill.

GRISALES: So even after all this back-and-forth with Trump, Blunt told reporters he hopes the best option here, which is signing the bill, becomes the only option. And he also noted that all of Trump's unpredictability is distracting time and attention that they could be using to focus on all of the positive things he did accomplish during his presidency and would be to his advantage.

SHAPIRO: This is supposed to be the time that lawmakers are home reflecting on their accomplishments from the past year. Instead, what are we looking at next week?

GRISALES: So Congress is already due back to override a veto on the defense bill by Trump. This would be the first such override if it's successful. They'll also hold this vote on direct payments. And they'll have an opportunity to pass this temporary funding bill if Trump hasn't signed this larger legislative package by then.

SHAPIRO: NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales.

Thank you very much.

GRISALES: Thanks much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.