House GOP blocks attempt to add Trump’s $2,000 checks to COVID relief package

What could be more “disloyal” than House Republicans blocking the president’s heroic initiative to boost disaster payments to struggling Americans?

I fear the only proper response is to primary them. All of them. Starting with Kevin McCarthy.

If we’re going to have a GOP civil war between those who will and won’t do Trump’s bidding, no one should be spared.

The House tried to pass the $2,000 payments during a pro forma session on Christmas Eve day, a brief meeting of the chamber where typically only a few members attend. Democrats aimed to approve the measure by unanimous consent, which means any one lawmaker can block it.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., offered the proposal from the House floor, but was blocked because the measure was not approved by House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif…

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement after her party’s measure failed that she would hold a full recorded vote on the proposal for $2,000 payments on Monday.

“Today, on Christmas Eve morning, House Republicans cruelly deprived the American people of the $2,000 that the President agreed to support,” said Pelosi in a statement afterward, no doubt chortling as she dictated it. “If the President is serious about the $2,000 direct payments, he must call on House Republicans to end their obstruction.”

The House GOP’s fig leaf in blocking the Dem proposal was that it complied with only half of the demands made by the president in his video on Tuesday night. He called for $2,000 checks *and* eliminating some of the foreign aid provisions in the COVID/omnibus spending bill. Republicans proposed their own bill today to strip out those provisions and were blocked in turn by Democrats — although why Trump and McCarthy’s caucus suddenly care about foreign aid remains a bit of a mystery. The president’s own budget proposed some of that same aid, after all. And McCarthy seemed to have no problem with the foreign aid appropriations in the bill until Trump objected to them after it passed:

I think the reason for Trump’s very belated concern about foreign aid is as simple as this: Some righties complained about its presence in the bill because they’re back to pretending that they’re fiscal conservatives now that Biden’s about to take office. Foreign aid is the lowest-hanging fruit on the tree when complaining about federal spending and it’s intuitively irritating to a nationalist like Trump, who resents handing out money abroad even if it helps extend our influence internationally. So he glommed onto the fiscal-con criticism and made it part of his grievance against the COVID/omnibus package — even though the only thing he’s really mad about in all this is McConnell and John Thune preparing to welcome Joe Biden as president.

As for McCarthy, spare a little sympathy for him on Christmas Eve. Apparently he and Cocaine Mitch were completely blindsided by the Tuesday night Trump video, believing that they’d finally put this months-long mess behind them before unemployment benefits ran out for millions of laid-off workers. White House legislative staffers were reportedly caught off-guard too, and took to apologizing to Republican lawmakers for not giving them advance warning after Trump’s video went live. The video was so closely held, in fact, that people on Capitol Hill are wondering who wrote the script for it. Mark Meadows seems to have known it was coming, per WaPo, but he probably didn’t contribute to it since he’d been opposed to increasing the checks to $2,000 on deficit-hawk grounds. Steve Mnuchin probably didn’t contribute either, as Trump apparently doesn’t even want to speak to him. Mitch McConnell hasn’t spoken to the president since Tuesday either, believing that it wouldn’t be “helpful,” as one of his advisors told the Post.

Sounds like the president’s just lighting things on fire to make trouble for Republicans whom he resents for not backing his coup attempt enthusiastically enough, in other words. McCarthy might be the only person with real influence in Congress who’s still sufficiently within his good graces that he might be able to steer him towards doing the right thing. McCarthy told House Republicans yesterday on a conference call that the president hadn’t committed to vetoing the bill yet, a hopeful note with a shutdown bearing down and millions in dire financial jeopardy. Presumably he’s working on him behind the scenes to just sign the damned thing already before voters grab their torches and pitchforks. “I don’t know if we recover from this,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina on the conference call, referring to the uproar if aid is delayed for several more weeks and Republicans end up taking the blame. “We will have a hell of a time getting this out of people’s head.”

There’s always a chance he’ll sign the bill as-is!

Another way out of this mess would be for both chambers to cave and adopt Trump’s plan for $2,000 checks. But it sounds like that’s a nonstarter for the Senate:

Maybe Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue can get through to Trump. If Foxx is right that the party will have a hell of a time getting this out of people’s heads, it stands to reason that the two Republicans from Georgia will bear the immediate brunt of that. They’ll face voters 12 days from now — and according to a new poll, Loeffler has already slipped behind Raphael Warnock, 49/47. (Perdue remains a point ahead of Jon Ossoff.) Every day that Trump delays signing and/or the Senate GOP delays caving to his demand for $2,000 checks is a day that Warnock and Ossoff will rub Loeffler’s and Perdue’s faces in it, exploiting the divide on the right and uniting the left in outrage.

Here’s another number out of Georgia today that’s cause for some concern:

Offhand I can’t think of a single major player in the party who wants Trump to hold off on signing the bill. The problem is that he’s concluded, not incorrectly, that all of those players have abandoned his completely futile bid to cling to power so he no longer feels obliged to do them any favors. In fact, according to Politico, he thinks this last-second obstruction of the bill is some sort of political winner for him. “We spoke to a few people in touch with the president and they say this: he has come to think that this fight he has pitched — teasing a veto on a covid/funding bill that his administration negotiated — is playing well with Americans,” the paper reported. Trump apparently believes that you can’t go wrong by demanding more generous checks for Americans and less spending on non-Americans, and normally that would be true. Normally.

But the circumstances right now aren’t normal:

BUT HERE’S WHAT WON’T PLAY WELL WITH THE BASE: the social safety net our country is supposed to provide is about to be ripped away in the middle of the holiday season. On Saturday, pandemic unemployment assistance — used by gig workers — runs out. On Dec. 31, pandemic emergency unemployment compensation — which lengthened UI — runs out, as does the eviction moratorium and the medical expense deduction. All gone unexpectedly unless the president signs the $2-trillion package.

It reminds me of the aftermath of his disastrous first debate with Biden, when Trump was reportedly “elated” by his performance and no one around him had the stones to tell him the hard truth. He’s strongly disposed psychologically to believe that the public loves everything he does, which helps explain why he’s having so much trouble accepting that he lost the election. Someone should put him on the phone with Foxx so that she can inform him which party is likely to be blamed if the bill tanks because the Republican president and the Republican congressional leadership can’t get together on desperately needed aid.

The saddest thing you’ll read today is this Washington Post story about laid-off workers phoning the newspaper confused and panicked to try to get information about the status of the bill after Trump’s surprise video on Tuesday night. They had been led to believe that unemployment benefits would be extended and that $600 checks were coming. Now they’re being told that the deal is in limbo and could collapse entirely if Trump runs out the clock on this session of Congress instead of signing or vetoing it before January 3. Some of the people who spoke to WaPo broke down in tears during their interviews. “If I were not a strong woman. If I didn’t have my faith in God, I probably would have jumped off a bridge. That’s how bad it seems some days,” said one laid-off medical worker with teenaged children living on $275 per week right now. Trump’s impulse to deliver bigger checks as part of the package is a good one, but it’s four months too late and is now doing more harm than good by delaying relief that’s already in the pipe — especially if his motive in all this really is just revenge on McConnell and Thune. Exit quotation from a former White House staffer: “He’s turning a fairly decent four years with a decent record into an utter disaster. Most selfish thing I’ve ever seen.”

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