Preoccupation With Score-settling
At other points in Trump's presidency, shambolic staff work and breakdowns in communication have led to avoidable embarrassment. At its worst, government incompetence contributed to unnecessary sickness and death in a pandemic that has now killed 1 in every 1,000 American.
But never has the shoddy inner-workings of the administration failed in ways that risk the entire government shutting down and millions of Americans being denied jobless benefits that, only days earlier, they seemed guaranteed to continue receiving.
That even in the hours leading up to the bill's approval no one on Trump's staff appeared able to say exactly what he would do, or when he would do it, typifies a governing style that relies more on chaos and score-settling than on anything calculated.
At Mar-a-Lago and his nearby golf club this weekend, Trump did not appear preoccupied with the pending legislation, according to people who spoke to him. When the matter did arise, Trump returned to his initial complaints that it doesn't pay Americans enough and is loaded with unrelated spending.
Instead, the topic Trump appeared more interested in was the election he lost and the bottomless well of fury he is now directing at fellow Republicans, who he believes have abandoned him during his hour of need.
Trump does not believe he owes McConnell anything now that the Kentucky Republican has acknowledged Biden's victory — least of all his support on a coronavirus relief package that his own administration agreed to.
Last week, the President also vetoed the defense bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act, despite its broad support among Republicans and Democrats alike. His rejection was, in part, because the bill does not strip tech firms — whom Trump accuses of helping Democrats — of liability protections.
The move set up what could be the first veto override of Trump's presidency, pitting members of his own party against him. The House will vote to override the veto on Monday, with the Senate returning later in the week if the vote is successful.
Still, just like Trump's initial unwillingness to sign Covid relief will cause suffering not for Republican lawmakers but average Americans, if the NDAA fails to become law it will be American troops and their families who are denied pay raises, hazard pay and parental leave that are included in the bill.
Those who are caught in the devastation of the pandemic have little time for games.
"I don't feel that any of them are reaching people like me. I honestly feel that we're struggling, and they have no idea what it's like," said Lilli Rayne of Asheville, North Carolina, whose dog walking business has been devastated by shutdowns that mean dog owners are at home to care for their animals. "It's been like a lot to deal with. Essentially for me, my day-to-day is gone, and a lot of my day-to-day is now sitting at home waiting for this to be over."
An argument over higher direct payments is welcome, Rayne said — but not at the expense of getting what was agreed to out the door.
"Honestly, just pass the $600. We can fight for more later," she said on CNN's "Newsroom."
"Right now, $600 gets two bills off my back or some of my credit card debt paid down so the interest won't kill me in 2021. Like just pass something. There are people like my mother who need that."