Evidently realizing his pretense of “negotiating” by shouting radical demands after the real negotiators in Congress have sealed their deal, Donald Trump yesterday signed the $900-billion coronavirus relief plus federal budget package Sunday night. Trump caved just in time to avert a government shutdown and an embarassing post-holiday stock market dip (futures did rise right away) waited just long enough to cheat fourteen million Americans out of a week’s worth of public assistance:
But his delay in signing the package has cost millions of Americans a week of unemployment benefits, as two pandemic-related programs expired Saturday.
In a statement Sunday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., alluded to those expired benefits.
“The signing of the bipartisan, bicameral coronavirus relief legislation is welcome news for the fourteen million Americans who just lost the lifeline of unemployment benefits on Christmas Weekend, and for the millions more struggling to stay afloat during this historic pandemic and economic crisis,” she said [Benjamin Swasey and Barbara Sprunt, “Trump Signs Covid-19 Relief Deal After His Criticism Threatened to Derail It,” NPR, 2020.12.27].
Trump drew red lines through a number of spending items, many of which he himself proposed:
‘I will send back to Congress a redlined version, item by item, accompanied by the formal rescission request to Congress insisting that those funds be removed from the bill,’ Trump said in the statement.
Additionally, many of the spending items in the federal budget that Trump wants cut were in his original budget request to Congress earlier this year [Katelyn Caralle, Emily Goodin, and Valerie Edwards, “Top Dem Slaps Down Trump’s Demand for Covid Package Spending Cuts…,” Daily Mail, updated 2020.12.28].
Trump is also claiming his signature comes with the assurance that Congress will now get to work in boosting the individual coronavirus relief checks to $2,000, repealing Section 230 of the Communciations Decency Act, and investigating election fraud. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is signaling those items will go nowhere:
McConnell released a statement applauding Trump’s signing the $900 billion relief and funding package but made no mention of the three items Trump claimed he was getting the Senate to do.
‘I thank the President for signing this relief into law, along with full-year government funding legislation that will continue the rebuilding and modernization of our Armed Forces that his Administration has championed. His leadership has prevented a government shutdown at a time when our nation could not have afforded one,’ McConnell said.
‘I am glad the American people will receive this much-needed assistance as our nation continues battling this pandemic,’ he added [Caralle, Goodin, and Edwards, 2020.12.28].
Senator John Thune, evidently still recovering from a brisk post-Christmas pheasant hunt, has not tweeted any comment on the White House’s surrender. Senator Marion Michael Rounds and Representative Dusty Johnson are still sleeping in for Christmas, though they need to go to the office today to override the veto of the National Defense Authorization Act and stop Trump from defunding the troops.
Trump tried to play one last game of chicken with Congress. The lame chicken lost, but not without creating more of the chaos and personal headlines he craves.
WHAT A BIZARRE, embarrassing episode for the president. He opposed a bill his administration negotiated. He had no discernible strategy and no hand to play — and it showed. He folded, and got nothing besides a few days of attention and chaos. People waiting for aid got a few days of frightening uncertainty.
ZIP. ZERO. ZILCH. If he was going to give up this easy, he should’ve just kept quiet and signed the bill. It would’ve been less embarrassing.
…THIS IS PROBABLY THE MOST FITTING coda to TRUMP’S presidency, and a neat encapsulation of his relationship with Congress. He never cared to understand the place and was disengaged from its work [Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer, “Politico Playbook: Trump Got Nothing,” Politico, 2020.12.28].