Donald Trump left Washington on Thursday for his Mar-a-Lago residence to spend Christmas with his family but he left a mess behind him in Washington.
The president still hasn’t said whether or not he would veto the $900 billion pandemic relief bill passed by Congress earlier this week. That’s a problem because there’s $1.4 trillion in the bill to fund the government through most of next year. If Trump doesn’t sign the bill by Monday, the government will begin the process of shutting down.
There are massive consequences if Trump doesn’t sign the bill. Unemployment payments will run out for millions of workers; the eviction moratorium will expire, sending potentially millions more into the street; and critical funding for vaccine distribution will be delayed.
Democrats have embraced Trump’s suggestion to increase individual stimulus payments to $2,000. They tried to pass the increase in the House by unanimous consent on Thursday but Republicans objected, leaving the issue in limbo.
“House and Senate Democrats have repeatedly fought for bigger checks for the American people, which House and Senate Republicans have repeatedly rejected – first, during our negotiations when they said that they would not go above $600 and now, with this act of callousness on the Floor,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Thursday.
The fate of the individual stimulus rests with Republican senators. And the votes just aren’t there.
“Republicans in Congress and the White House can’t agree on what they want,” Hoyer told reporters Thursday at the Capitol. “Surely, the president of the United States, whether he is in Mar-a-Lago or someplace else, ought to empathize with the suffering and apprehension and deep angst people are feeling this Christmas Eve.”
Senator Roy Blunt, a member of the GOP leadership, said there were not enough Republican votes in the Senate to pass the $2,000 payments.
“I hope the president looks at this again and reaches that conclusion that the best thing to do is to sign the bill,” Blunt told reporters.
Trump has once again put Republican senators against the wall and they may find their lockstep loyalty to the president tested like never before. In addition to holding up the government funding and pandemic relief legislation, the president vetoed the massive military spending bill. Despite both chambers passing the bill with overwhelming majorities, many Republicans may find it very difficult to defy Trump and vote to uphold the veto anyway.
The House Ways and Means Committee has sent “The Cash Act” to the floor for a vote on Monday to increase the stimulus payments to $2,000. It’s going to pass easily. There may be enough Republican senators who would vote against Trump and pass the bill. A lot will depend on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. If McConnell stands with Trump, the measure will probably pass. But if he stands with his caucus and supports blocking any additional stimulus, it will be back to the drawing board for pandemic relief, which would probably await the arrival of a new president.