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Trump Slams Massive COVID-19 Relief Bill Passed By Congress

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Well, President Trump now says he has problems with the COVID relief bill Congress passed earlier this week. Here's Trump last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: A few months ago, Congress started negotiations on a new package to get urgently needed help to the American people. It's taken forever. However, the bill they are now planning to send back to my desk is much different than anticipated. It really is a disgrace.

GREENE: Now, Trump is not wrong that it took a long time - seven months. Republicans and Democrats were divided over how much money should be spent and how it should be spent. President Trump, for his part, was largely absent from negotiations. But then Congress got it done. So what does the president's late criticism mean here? Well, we start with NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe. Ayesha, good morning.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So as far as you can tell, what are Trump's issues with this bill? And what is he calling for in terms of changes?

RASCOE: He says the package addresses more than the coronaviruses pandemic, and - but that's because it's tied to a spending bill which funds the federal - the entire federal government. So there is a lot in there. And this is actually something that President Trump's team asked for. Trump gives a long list of things he doesn't like in it, including money appropriated for museums, environmental programs and foreign aid. You know, once again, that's money that's not coming out of coronavirus relief money, but that's money that's coming out from this massive government spending bill.

But, you know, as for what he wants changed, he specifically says he wants larger stimulus checks. Negotiators had agreed to $600. Here's more from Trump.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple. I'm also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation and to send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package.

RASCOE: His overall point is that there's too much money for special interests and not enough for Americans who are struggling. But Trump also called for an extension of this tax break for businesses that entertain clients at restaurants, the so-called three-martini-lunch tax break. But critics say that will benefit executives, not hurting restaurants.

GREENE: So is he actually going to try and stop this bill at this late stage? And if he wants to do that, can he actually stop the bill at this late stage?

RASCOE: It is on his desk. He did not - he notably did not use the word veto in the video. Congress actually passed it with veto-proof majorities. A big question now is whether Republicans on the Hill will feel pressure to make some changes or to try to bend to Trump's demands somehow.

GREENE: All right, NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe for us this morning. Ayesha, thanks so much.

RASCOE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.