President Donald Trump is reportedly back playing golf as Republican anger continues to grow over his refusal to sign off on a $900bn Covid relief package.
It comes just hours after unemployment benefits for millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic expired, plunging the livelihoods of people across the country into further uncertainty.
Mr Trump has been roundly condemned for refusing to green-light the package, which took a bitterly divided Congress months to agree.
And much of the discontent is coming from those within the president’s own party. Maryland governor, Larry Hogan, and Pennsylvania senator, Pat Toomey, are just two GOP lawmakers calling on the president to release the vital funds.
But Mr Trump is demanding that direct payments to Americans are increased from $600 to $2,000. He called for “increased payments to the people”, urging his colleagues to “get rid of the ‘pork’” from the legislation, which he has criticised for paying out aid to foreign countries.
Sunday’s round of golf is the second in a matter of days. Mr Trump spent Christmas Day on the fairways with South Carolina’s Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham.
The president devoted some of his post-Christmas Day holiday to pushing yet more baseless claims about voter fraud at the election — a clear sign that he has no intention of throwing in the towel as the New Year approaches.
“The proof is irrefutable!” he said as he called on Senate Republicans to back his efforts to overturn the election result. “Massive late-night mail-in ballot drops in swing states, stuffing the ballot boxes (on video), double voters, dead voters.”
But his baseless voter fraud claims have lost support from his once-favourite news network, Fox News.
Fox News correspondent-at-large Geraldo Rivera launched a withering attack on the defeated president. “Sadly he lost a bitterly contested election,” Rivera tweeted. “However since he has behaved like an entitled frat boy.”
Unemployment benefits for millions of Americans expire
Unemployment benefits for millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet lapsed overnight as Mr Trump refused to sign an end-of-year Covid relief and spending bill that had been considered a done deal before his sudden objections
The fate of the bipartisan package remains in limbo today as the president continues to demand largerrelief checks and complained about “pork” spending. Without the widespread funding provided by the massive measure, a government shutdown would occur when money runs out at 12:10am on Tuesday.
“It’s a chess game and we are pawns,” said Lanetris Haines, a self-employed single mother of three in South Bend, Indiana, who stood to lose her $129 weekly jobless benefit unless Mr Trump signed the package into law or succeeded in his improbable quest for changes.
Washington has been reeling since Trump turned on the deal after it had won sweeping approval in both houses of Congress and after the White House had assured Republican leaders that Trump would support it.
Instead, he scoffed at the bill’s plan to provide $600 relief checks to most Americans — insisting it should be $2,000. House Republicans swiftly rejected that idea during a rare Christmas Eve session. But Trump has not been swayed in spite of the nation being in the grip of a pandemic.
“I simply want to get our great people $2000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill,” Trump tweeted Saturday from Palm Beach, Florida, where he is spending the holiday. “Also, stop the billions of dollars in ‘pork.”‘
Donald Trump behaving like “an entitled frat boy”, says Fox News’s Geraldo Rivera
Fox News correspondent-at-large Geraldo Rivera last night branded the president “an entitled frat boy” over his attempts to overturn his election defeat to Joe Biden, the president-elect.
Mr Rivera had been a loyal supporter of Mr Trump throughout his four years in office, but that backing appears to have come to an end.
“For almost 4 years I’ve supported @realDonaldTrump who was assailed by leftist creeps who conjured the Russia Hoax to wreck his presidency,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Nevertheless he prevailed. Sadly he lost a bitterly contested election. Shit happens. However since he has behaved like an entitled frat boy”.
He also took a swipe at former Trump campaign lawyer, Sidney Powell, who has repeatedly pushed the president’s false voter fraud claims.
“Sidney Powell is a pathetic lawyer who among others is working to destroy the legacy of @realDonaldTrump,” he said.
Mr Trump continues to insist that the election was “rigged” and that Mr Biden “stole” the win from him. He and his legal team are yet to provide any evidence to back up those allegations.
Trump tells GOP senators to “fight for the presidency” as he pushes false voter fraud claims
Despite the electoral college meeting earlier this month to confirm Mr Biden’s election victory, a small but determined group of Trump loyalists in the House of Representatives is refusing to accept the result.
Reportedly led by Mo Brooks, representative for Alabama’s 5th congressional district, the group is planning a desperate last-ditch bid to overturn Mr Biden’s win when Congress meets on 6 January to ratify the EC’s certification.
But any move by Trump allies to overturn Mr Biden’s win would require support in the Senate, where it has so far been lacking. The president last night issued a rallying cry to GOP lawmakers who take their seats in the upper chamber.
“Time for Republican Senators to step up and fight for the Presidency, like the Democrats would do if they had actually won,” he said. “The proof is irrefutable! Massive late night mail-in ballot drops in swing states, stuffing the ballot boxes (on video), double voters, dead voters”.
Mr Brooks last week claimed that support for Mr Trump’s bid to subvert democracy was “growing” in the Senate, adding that “multiple” lawmakers are now rowing in behind the defeated incumbent.
He did not name any, however. John Thune, a Republican senator for South Dakota senator, disputed Mr Brooks’s claims, saying the effort is “going down like a shot dog.”