Nancy Pelosi calls Trump's bluff as he loses it and threatens to derail Congress's massive spending bill
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called President Donald Trump's bluff on Tuesday night as he threatened to derail the massive deal on government spending that had finally been reached between Democrats and Republicans at the beginning of the week.
In a video filled with lies posted to his Twitter account, the president suggested he might block the legislation, which included continued funding for much of the government and the COVID-19 relief deal that has been at the center of extensive congressional negotiations for months. One of the main planks of the relief deal was a plan to send $600 checks to the majority of Americans, as well as expanded unemployment insurance payments, funding for key services, and financial support for businesses impacted by the pandemic.
Throughout the negotiations, which really began in May when Democrats passed a $3 trillion relief bill in the House, Republicans have consistently fought to spend less money. Occasionally, Trump would suggest he wanted to see more in direct payments to individuals, but he never took serious steps toward making this happen.
But now, with members of Congress getting ready for the Christmas vacations and the spending bill passed through both chambers of Congress after fierce debate, Trump demanded that changes be made. In his video he demanded that the direct payment be increased to $2,000 per person:
https://t.co/v9Rdjz6DNu— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1608682531
Though Trump didn't explicitly use the word "veto," in the video, he demanded amendments be made to the bill. In theory, Congress passed the spending bill with far more than enough votes to override a presidential veto. But if Trump were to veto the bill, that may change the minds of many congressional Republicans, and it's not guaranteed it would still have the two-thirds support needed to make the legislation law without the president's support. Trump's actions could cause a government shutdown and prevent relief funds from getting to families.
Sending the video was a particularly erratic move, even for Trump, since administration officials have been involved in the negotiations and had insisted he would sign the final deal.
But Pelosi decided to call his bluff on Tuesday. In a reply to his video sent shortly after he posted it, the speaker tweeted out: "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!"
Washington Post reporter Mike DeBonis reported that she is being entirely serious:
In case you thought this was a joke, it's not -- Dems are going to offer a UC motion at Christmas Eve pro forma and… https://t.co/j8k2fgSqMI— Mike DeBonis (@Mike DeBonis) 1608688706
The problem for Trump is, though, that Democrats generally favor high direct spending. It's the Republicans who want to block the higher amount. That means if Democrats take the proposal to the floor, it's almost certainly going to be Republicans who block it.
That puts the GOP in a particularly bad spot heading into the Georgia runoffs on Jan. 5, which could determine control of the Senate for the next two years. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was clearly anxious to pass some form of COVID-19 relief, including the $600 checks, which he hoped would bouy the chances of Georgia Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.
But now Trump is undermining their ability to campaign on the $600 checks, which the president is calling insufficient. That makes it much harder for Perdue and Loeffler to claim they've delivered for their constituents. And with Pelosi agreeing to put $2,000 checks up for a vote, a vote the GOP will likely block, Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who are running to replace Perdue and Loeffler, will have a stronger argument to make that their party deserves control of Congress.
Of course, in the video, Trump didn't just complain about the insufficient amount of direct spending on families and individuals. He also listed a litany of complaints about various forms of government spending, even though little of it was out of the ordinary and he did nothing to oppose it during Congress's negotiations. So he and his fellow Republicans could still claim Pelosi and the Democrats aren't really solving his objections to the bill with the extra $2,000.
In addition to the video, though, Trump is also lashing out at Senate Republicans. He targeted South Dakota Sen. John Thune, who recently dismissed Trump's hopes of overturning the 2020 election when Congress counts the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6:
Republicans in the Senate so quickly forget. Right now they would be down 8 seats without my backing them in the la… https://t.co/XgaCV0IqAm— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1608684883
And the direct spending portion of the bill has been the most salient in the media coverage and public discussion of the bill. Ossoff and Warnock have made it a big part of their campaigns. Trump might have just given them and the rest of the Democrats the best opportunity they could hope for to bring this message home.
McConnell must not be too pleased.
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