With pandemic unemployment benefits and eviction moratoriums set to expire at the end of this year, the future of an urgently needed relief bill was thrown into limbo this past week when President Trump called the bipartisan measure a “disgrace,” and demanded one-time $600 payments to be increased to $2,000.
Representative Peter King called this perhaps one of the most “confusing weeks” in his 28-year career in Capitol Hill, telling The Cats Roundtable that the relief package Trump was opposed to had been negotiated by his White House.
“The President had his Treasury Secretary in the room negotiating, and basically the Covid bill was what the White House asked for,” King explained, adding the President’s demand for $2,000 one-time payments “never came up” in the months of negotiation.
King also pushed back on criticisms of a massive spending package Trump has asked Congress to amend, telling The Cats Roundtable that the spending package and the foreign aid it included were “what President Trump wanted” and were part of the White House’s own foreign policy strategy.
“To say we’re just giving money to Pakistan, we’re just giving away money to Cambodia—that was the President’s policy so he could contain China,” King noted. “If he wanted a different policy, that’s one thing. But he should have told us that—not have all this in there, and not have one objection until after—it was 24 hours after we voted for the bill.”
The great difficulty comes in the timing, according to King, with Trump’s protests coming after the legislation had been delivered for him to sign. With the government facing a shutdown Monday night, King said negotiations might have to begin all over again, and said the White House “can’t have it both ways.”
“We were told that the White House wanted this bill passed,” King again emphasized. “It was essential, and even people who didn’t agree with everything in there said if President Trump needs it, they would vote for it.”
The President’s bucking of the relief bill saw a rare Christmas eve session of Congress as Democrats attempted to cast a unanimous vote to increase the one-time payments. But House Republicans stifled the measure, casting further doubts on the future of the bill as Americans face an uncertain new year.
King, who is retiring at the end of this year, told The Cats Roundtable last week that he cast his vote for the relief package as part of a new chapter at the end of his own legacy.
Despite the turmoil, King spoke pointedly with The Cats Roundtable about why he remained steadfast in his faith in the potential of the US, from the mandate and trust of his constituents to the handshakes he helped make across the growing divide in Washington.
“To be part of the greatest legislative body, and the greatest government, and the greatest country in the world—it’s something I will always be proud of,” King said.
Listen to the interview below