Just one day before he was expected to sign the $900 billion stimulus bill, President Donald Trump released a video condemning it. Describing the legislation as “a disgrace,” Trump listed a series of allocations that he believes are “wasteful spending.” He also called for an increase to the “ridiculously low” stimulus checks, saying they should go from $600 to $2,000. In a sense, this video was the most 2020 thing ever in that it tedious, contained one actually good thing within it, and ended with Trump hinting that he would stay in office regardless of the fact that he lost the election. What a ride.
The video started predictably, with Trump accusing Democrats of “cruelly” blocking relief legislation in an effort to “advance their extreme left-wing agenda and influence the election.” He went on to list a series of allocations within the stimulus package of which he does not approve, and then followed by blaming the virus, yet again, on China. Up till that point, it seemed like any other of Trump’s many bloviating diatribes, but then he decided to say something we actually agree with: “Despite all of this wasteful spending and much more, the $900 billion package provides hardworking taxpayers with only $600 each in relief payments.” Unsurprisingly, Trump did not mention that most Democrats have said this all along, or that the $600 stimulus check amount came from his treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin.
According to The Washington Post, this video came as a complete surprise even to Trump’s own aides — to say nothing of countless other Republicans, who were no doubt shocked that the president would threaten to refuse to sign the bill that they’ve worked hard to make as unhelpful to the American people as possible.
The implications of what happens if Trump doesn’t sign the current bill are cataclysmic. If he refuses to do so, the government will shut down on December 29. With a government on-hold, economic aid will be delayed until he either signs this bill or a new agreement can be reached. While you would think that Republicans would want to get in line with what Trump — who is still popular with the party’s base — says, you’d be wrong. In fact, it’s Democrats, who immediately responded to Trump’s video on Twitter, who are happily prepared to amend the bill in order to send out larger stimulus checks.
Bernie Sanders is totally on board, saying that a $2,000 direct payment was the original plan seven months ago; according to Sanders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and many other Republicans opposed it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed a similar sentiment, adding that Democrats are ready to vote in favor of this addendum unanimously should it be brought to the Floor. “Glad to see the President is willing to support our legislation,” tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who co-authored part of the original bill to include the larger sum. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tagged McConnell on Twitter encouraging him to “not get bogged down in ideological offsets” and instead focus on what will help the American people the most.
That’s great! I first introduced a bill to provide a $2,000 direct payment with @SenKamalaHarris & @EdMarkey 7 months ago. Now, Mr. President, get Mitch McConnell and your Republican friends to stop opposing it and we can provide working class Americans with $2,000. Let’s do it. https://t.co/fKvqBsqM0k
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) December 23, 2020
Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks. At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it! https://t.co/Th4sztrpLV
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) December 23, 2020
Let’s do it. @RashidaTlaib and I already co-wrote the COVID amendment for $2,000 checks, so it’s ready to go.
Glad to see the President is willing to support our legislation.
We can pass $2k checks this week if the Senate GOP agrees to stand down. https://t.co/GprwrUPali pic.twitter.com/nFFs1ExqCK
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 23, 2020
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) December 23, 2020
There is one small catch. Because the legislation passed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives with veto-proof majorities, Trump actually can’t make edits to the bill. It is set at $600, but that doesn’t mean that additional checks can’t be sent out. House Democrats will attempt to pass a standalone bill for $2,000 direct payments on Thursday, reports CNBC. Lawmakers calling for a vote on this new stimulus check measure have reportedly not specified whether this would be in addition to the $600 or as a replacement for it. It is unclear whether this would pass given the months of gridlock just to get the current bill to pass in both houses of Congress. With Trump supporting the idea, though, it is possible that Republicans loyal to the president will agree to move forward with it.
Of course, all this good news about the potential for additional, much-needed stimulus money might just be a distraction from the fact that the president also ended this video with a threat to stay in office. He concluded by saying that if Congress doesn’t send out more money, then “the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package. And maybe that administration will be me. And we will get it done.” Uh, what? While it’s hard to take this threat seriously, it’s unsettling nonetheless. But what else could we expect as we near the end of 2020? Every hopeful thing must come with a tinge of terror attached. What fun.
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