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Trump golfs as COVID aid hangs in balance

After tossing a political grenade that threatens to blow up a massive COVID relief and government funding bill and force a US government shutdown, President Donald Trump has spent his Christmas Eve golfing in Florida.

Failure to agree on the bill could deny cheques to millions of Americans on the brink.

Trump had no events on his public schedule on the first day of his winter holiday on Thursday, but travelled to his Palm Beach golf club, where he was spotted by CNN cameras on the links.

Reporters were given no details of his schedule for the day, but told that “as the Holiday season approaches, President Trump will continue to work tirelessly for the American People. His schedule includes many meetings and calls”.

Trump’s departure came as Washington was still reeling over his eleventh-hour demand that an end-of-year spending bill that congressional leaders spent months negotiating give most Americans COVID relief cheques worth $US2000 ($A2600).

The amount is far more than the $US600 ($A790) members of Trump’s own party had agreed to.

The idea was swiftly rejected by House Republicans during a rare Christmas Eve session, leaving the proposal in limbo.

The bipartisan compromise had been considered a done deal and had won sweeping approval in the House and Senate this week after the White House assured Republican leaders that Trump supported it.

If Trump refuses to sign the deal, which is attached to a $US1.4 trillion ($A1.8 trillion) government funding bill, it will force a federal government shutdown, in addition to delaying aid cheques and halting unemployment benefits and eviction protections in the midst of the most dire stretch of the pandemic.

It was a final raised middle finger to Republicans from a president who has been raging over his November 3 loss to President-elect Joe Biden and trying to come up with new, increasingly outrageous schemes to try to overturn the results of a Democratic election.

In Florida, Trump continued to rail against the results, complaining to members that he had been robbed of the election and voicing frustrations about the year-end spending bill.

“At a meeting in Florida today, everyone was asking why aren’t the Republicans up in arms & fighting over the fact that the Democrats stole the rigged presidential election?” Trump tweeted after he’d returned to his private Mar-a-Lago club.

“Especially in the Senate, they said, where you helped 8 Senators win their races.”

“I will NEVER FORGET!” he wrote in another tweet.

The statements underscored concerns that Trump is blowing up negotiations to punish lawmakers for what he sees as their insufficient support.

Trump has provided no credible evidence to support his election claims, which have also been refuted by a long list of officials, from former attorney general William Barr to Republican governors, judges and local election administrators.

Meanwhile, the nation continues to reel as the coronavirus spreads, with record infections and hospitalisations and more than 327,000 now dead.

And millions are now facing the prospect of spending the holidays alone or struggling to make ends meet without adequate income, food or shelter thanks to the pandemic’s economic toll.

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