Mitt Romney says Trump is threatening relief deal with demand for $2K checks

Utah senator complains it would cost $500B, which must be repaid with interest.

(J. Scott Applewhite | AP file photo) In this Nov. 10, 2020, file photo, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, is seen departing after a Republican Conference held leadership elections on Capitol Hill. He complained Wednesday that President Donald Trump is breaking agreements on the size of relief payments as part of a pandemic relief bill, and could be jeopardizing the entire package of aid and government funding.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney cried foul Wednesday that President Donald Trump is trying to change the bipartisan deal on how big individual and family checks should be, saying that jeopardizes the entire pandemic relief and funding bill that Congress just passed.

“The president’s team was very much involved in the negotiation of the legislation,” Romney, who himself was a key negotiator, told the Salt Lake Chamber in an online event.

Romney said he and a bipartisan group of rank-and-file senators who wrote initial proposals left out stimulus payments that would go to everyone to instead target aid to the truly needy. But Trump’s team was among those who pushed for and won approval of a $600 payment to most adults and children, phasing out at $75,000 income for an individual or $150,000 for a household.

After the bill passed, Trump announced he now wants that raised to $2,000 or he may veto the bill — and Romney is protesting.

“It was a give-and-take process. So, the White House got some things they wanted. They gave some things they didn’t want. That’s the nature of a negotiation,” the senator said. “This is a bill that had to be a win both for Republicans and for Democrats” to pass.

Romney said he is unsure if a procedure even exists for Congress to reopen the now-passed bill. But he added, “I can assure you our Democrat friends are very happy to spend additional funding,” noting the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has supported that.

Following suit, the only member of Utah’s congressional delegation who spoke in favor Wednesday of Trump’s proposal was its lone Democrat — just-defeated Rep. Ben McAdams.

“I absolutely support a $2,000 stimulus check,” McAdams said. “People in Utah are hurting and need the help. I wish the president had pushed for the $2,000 payment before the bill had passed, but I’ll take the next flight back to D.C. to make it happen, if there’s an agreement with the Senate.”

Other Republican members of the Utah delegation did not immediately respond to questions about whether they favor a $2,000 stimulus payment. Romney and McAdams were the only Utahns who voted for the pandemic relief bill, while Sen. Mike Lee and Reps. Chris Stewart and John Curtis voted against it because of attached spending they said was excessive. Rep. Rob Bishop missed the vote as he recovers from a stroke.

Romney also complained Wednesday that to pay for $2,000 relief checks, “the additional borrowing would be up to $500 billion” beyond the $900 billion Congress just approved for pandemic aid.

“Someone’s got to pay for that,” he warned. “We can’t just have free money. There’s got to be taxation, we have to pay the interest on the debt.”

He added that he understands why relief checks — and bigger ones — are popular with the public.

“It’s like [asking], ‘Everybody in favor of getting a free check from the government, raise your hand.’ Not a lot of hands won’t go up,” he said. “But don’t forget, we have to pay it back someday and pay it back with interest.”

Romney added that he doesn’t believe Trump will actually veto the bill because of its importance. If he does, “then we would obviously have to rush back to take action.”

Romney complained that the president’s actions could delay relief. “I hope not, in part because unemployment insurance runs out for people the day after Christmas and any delay would be really unfortunate.”

Curtis appeared at the same video event as Romney. After hearing Romney’s explanations, he laughed and joked, “So do I understand, right, that we’re confused about where the president is at? So this has never happened before.” He added that Americans “are right to be frustrated with this” process.

Curtis, however, didn’t offer an opinion on Trump’s $2,000 per person relief plan.

Also at the Salt Lake Chamber event, Romney urged small businesses in Utah to apply to banks or credit unions as soon as possible for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and grants — saying it could run out of money, and funds will be made available on a first-come, first-served basis.

“There’s a good shot that we will run out of the funding we’ve come up with for PPP,” the senator said. “There will be more demand for it than there is money.”

He added, “So it is going to be a matter of getting there first and getting your application in and getting the funds. Because those that wait may find that the fund has been exhausted.”