President Donald Trump has signed the latest COVID relief bill, which includes more Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses, as well as $600 direct payments to those eligible. This revelation comes amidst a recent veto threat issued by the President if the bill did not have $2000 in checks to the American people. The bill was an evolutionary piece of legislation originally set to be completed this past September, however, talks stalled until after the election.
Initially, Republicans proposed an $800 billion deal, only for the President to ask for $1.8 trillion, one of the largest spending deals in US history in the lead-up to November. For most likely political reasons, a deal was never reached until after the results came in. Nevertheless, Democratic and Republican lawmakers met for weeks on end through November and into December to reach a deal to help the American people. After the proposed bill still did not have direct payments and only unemployment insurance, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) teamed up in a concerted bipartisan effort to get checks to the American people, eventually getting $600 direct payments added to the relief bill.
Enter President Trump.
After getting bipartisan approval on the bill, the President addressed the nation with a threat to veto the bill if it did not have $2000 in direct payments – over triple the initial amount proposed. In his speech, he boldly stated “I’m 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.” Had there been real follow through on previous threats, such as Congress fully funding a border wall, maybe there would have been more leverage. Instead, these recent threats came just a few days before the unemployment benefits for millions were set to expire. This situation put enormous pressure and time constraints on the White House to persuade Republicans to go along, all of whom wanted to be back with their loved ones for the Christmas holiday.
House Republicans didn’t go along with the change and stayed on course with their support for the bill that had already passed. With mounting pressure and little support from Republican members of Congress, Trump caved shortly after Christmas and signed the bill, granting emergency relief to those in most need. If the President wants his threats to remain credible and powerful then he must follow through, otherwise, they are meaningless.