Just as Democrats and Republicans in Congress have finally agreed on how much (or rather, how little) stimulus money to throw to the American people, President Trump has emerged in his favorite role as head troll to play with our feelings all over again.
In a video issued Tuesday night, the president implied he would not sign the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill that was recently passed by Congress unless the $600 amount outlined in the stimulus checks for Americans is increased to $2,000.
“I am also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation, and to send me a suitable bill, or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package, and maybe that administration will be me,” Trump said.
While I agree with Trump’s description of the $600 stimulus checks as being the “bare minimum” for the American people, his threat to hold up any money at all from going out until January—or when he somehow retains office by winning an election he has lost too many times to count—feels like just another example of the fake-out stunts we’ve had to deal with from him for the past four years. It also isn’t the first time Trump has played around with our money on this stimulus issue.
Democrats, who had been pushing for more money in the stimulus checks to begin with but were repeatedly shot down by Senate Republicans, responded to Trump’s announcement on Tuesday with unanimous agreement with his proposal—essentially putting the ball in his and the GOP’s court to finally get some decent funds out to a nation of citizens still struggling through a crisis.
“Mr. President, sign the bill to keep the government open,” said Nancy Pelosi tweeted on Wednesday morning. “Urge McConnell and McCarthy to agree with the Democratic unanimous consent request for $2,000 direct payments! This can be done by noon on Christmas Eve!”
House Democrats Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also stepped up on Tuesday night to co-write an amendment to the existing relief bill, leaving the decision to Trump and Senate Republicans if the higher checks will be signed off.
Trump has said nothing publicly since his eleventh-hour intervention, setting the stage for another protracted shutdown. This would likely translate into a delay in any stimulus funds reaching us any time soon, though they had been scheduled to begin going next week according to Trump’s own Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin.
Trump could veto the bill that would have made that possible, but Congress could override that veto. Republicans in Congress are also unlikely to unanimously vote in support of the $2,000 increase, according to the New York Times. So it’s either we get $600 soon or we get nothing until Trump leaves office.
Thankfully, President-elect Biden has already signaled his plans to advocate for another stimulus package with additional funds for Americans when he takes office in January.
From the Times:
Mr. Biden said he planned to ask Congress to pass another bill that would include more funding to help firefighters, police officers and nurses. He said that his bill would include a new round of stimulus checks to Americans, but that the amount of money they contained would be a matter of negotiation.
His focus, he said, was to have the money necessary to distribute vaccines to 300 million people, to support Americans who have lost jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic and to help businesses stay open.
Like anyone else, I’m all in for Americans to get more than a measly $600. But I can’t help but be exhausted by Trump’s shenanigans, and I want us to at least get something soon. It’s cruel to play with the very lives of people whose economic well-being has been hanging in the balance for months during this pandemic crisis—and for what feels like nothing but politics.
We’ll be watching if this drama turns out to be anything more than that.