Trump's Waffling On The Bill
A week ago, the prospect of a government shutdown and lapsing jobless benefits in the time between Christmas and New Years seemed far-off. Both chambers of Congress passed the package overwhelmingly and the White House was clear that Trump would sign it. Lawmakers left town.
But no one, it seemed, actually checked with Trump — or if they did, he wasn't paying close enough attention to realize what exactly he was signing onto. Even after Trump released a video saying the direct payment checks in the bill were too low and complaining about the bevy of unrelated spending (which was actually included in the attached government funding mechanism), no one seemed to be able to get an answer on how he intended to proceed.
"He should have weighed in eight months ago...or at least eight days ago, and not after they finally reached agreement," Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican from Maryland and frequent Trump critic, said on "State of the Union" on Sunday.
On Christmas Eve, staff at Mar-a-Lago made preparations for Trump to sign the package, setting up a small table and arranging pens in one of the club's ballrooms. But the plan was scrapped at the last minute, two sources with knowledge of the circumstances told CNN.
On Sunday, as he was preparing to leave for dinner at his nearby golf course, Trump offered a tease of his coming move, but still left even his circle of advisers in the dark about his intentions.
"Good news on Covid Relief Bill. Information to follow!" he wrote.
Finally, it emerged that Trump had indeed signed the measure after consulting with Republican leaders. In his statement afterward, Trump claimed he had secured concessions from lawmakers.
"The Senate will start the process for a vote that increases checks to $2,000, repeals Section 230, and starts an investigation into voter fraud," he wrote.
He also said he would use executive authorities to remove what he's deemed "pork" in the government funding bill — despite having proposed identical figures in his budget this year.
"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 wrote. There is little expectation his requests will go anywhere.
McConnell, while praising Trump in his own statement afterward, made zero mention of the items Trump listed. He still lauded Trump for providing economic relief as "quickly as possible," a laughable compliment given the days it took for Trump to sign the package.
After Trump signed the bill, a senior White House official voiced frustration that Trump relented on signing the deal over his demand for higher stimulus checks.
"What's particularly hilarious is watching Trump quit on his coronavirus relief push while complaining about everyone quitting on his reelection. Why should any supporter fight for him when he quit on trying to get them more than a measly $600?" the senior official told CNN.