DON GONYEA, HOST:
President Trump has just signed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill into law after threatening to derail it. Official confirmation came from a White House tweet in the last half-hour. It came from the press office, not from the president himself. The bill and a larger separate spending measure were approved by big majorities by both houses of the Congress on Monday. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales is here with us watching all this tonight. Hi, Claudia.
CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, Don.
GONYEA: So the president called this package in the past a disgrace, and now we learn he has his signature on it. What do we know about his change of heart?
GRISALES: So he did issue a statement tonight. He said he has told Congress that he wants far less wasteful spending and more money going to American people in the form of these larger checks. But with that said, he's going to sign this bill, he said, with plans to go through the bill itself, red line it and turn - cross out items he doesn't like item by item, point out what could be adjusted and plead for them to reconsider this after the fact, after he has signed it. He also said he's signing it because he wants to restore these unemployment benefits that were running out, stop evictions, provide rental assistance, add money for a small business loan program and return airline workers back to work, as well as aid money for vaccine distribution. So he was making clear he realizes now how much was at stake and reversing his position.
He also said that he understands the House is going to vote on his demands for new checks in the form of $2,000 to Americans. And now the Senate will also move to try and set up a vote here. We don't expect it to get very far, maybe pass the House, but not in the Senate - Republicans, most of them, still remain opposed. But he had received a lot of pressure from lawmakers, from folks who had pointed out the millions of Americans that would be facing these dire circumstances. These are lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. And unemployment programs, for example, that expired yesterday, adding additional benefits. The eviction moratorium was set to expire Thursday. And then the government was looking at a possible shutdown tomorrow night.
GONYEA: OK, so what can Americans expect kind of in the near term?
GRISALES: So what they're looking at is to see those direct payments in the coming weeks of up to $600, money for small businesses, vaccine distribution, schools. All told, it's $900 billion. And then there's a $1.4 trillion spending bill that'll keep the government going through September.
GONYEA: So - but these lawmakers have to feel like they've just been through whiplash.
GRISALES: Exactly. They do. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell applauded this move. I think they're all breathing a sigh of relief tonight because they're not going to have to scramble and face a lot of concerns among millions of Americans.
GONYEA: All right. So breaking news tonight. NPR's Claudia Grisales, thank you so much for being on top of it for us.
GRISALES: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.