Trump Signs Pandemic Relief Law After All

Law Office of Robert L. Firth Dec. 28, 2020

After unexpectedly not signing the new pandemic relief law since Congress passed it last Monday, President Trump did sign it on Sunday night.

Late last weekend (on December 20) Congress announced it had a deal on a new pandemic relief law. That agreement was the topic of our blog post last week.

Since our last blog post of last Monday morning (December 21), things went as expected, and then did not.

What’s Happened Since Last Week—As Expected

As expected, later on Monday evening both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the relief bill. The votes were 359-53 in the House, 92-6 in the Senate. These strong bipartisan votes in favor could have become very important because of what happened thereafter.

What’s Happened Since Last Week—As Not Expected

On Tuesday evening, December 22, President Trump released a video saying he objected to the bill. He said the $600 stimulus payouts should be $2,000 per person. He called the bill a “disgrace.” This in spite of prior assurances by his chief negotiator, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, that the President supported the bill. This increase would have added about $370 billion to the $900 billion or so bill. Many Republican legislators objected to this increase.

The President did not specifically say in his video that he planned to veto the bill.

Then on Thursday, Christmas Eve, Democratic Representatives tried to pass a bill agreeing to this increase to $2,000. Because many legislators had left for the holidays this could be only be done by “unanimous consent.” This meant every Representative had to agree to it. Republican Representatives objected, so it did not pass.

That day Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement saying: “On Monday [December 28] I will bring the House back to session where we will hold a recorded vote on our stand alone bill to increase economic aid payments to $2,000.”

After that, for days President Trump neither vetoed nor signed the pandemic relief bill. He continued tweeting his objections to it but did not say what he’d do.

In the meantime, on Saturday, December 26, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program expired. It affects about 9.5 million self-employed, gig-workers and such who don’t normally qualify for unemployment benefits. Millions of other Americans were on hold for receiving weekly $300 federal supplementary unemployment benefits. Also, eviction protections were set to expire on December 31.

Also, the federal government was scheduled to shut down as of midnight on Monday, December 28. The pandemic relief bill was part of a major government spending bill which prevented this shutdown.

What’s Happened on Sunday—Now Also Not Expected

On Sunday afternoon (December 27) the President sent an ambiguous tweet at 3:21 PM EST: “Good news on Covid Relief Bill. Information to follow!” Soon after, he signed the bill. He did so without an increase in the stimulus payments, or any of the changes he’d insisted upon. He did not give an explanation why he signed a bill which days before he’d called a “disgrace.”

See our blog post of last week about what is in the bill that has now been signed into law. And please contact us, your bankruptcy lawyers, if you need help regardless of all this political back and forth.