Trump balks at pandemic relief bill

President Trump has denounced the stimulus bill Congress passed this week in response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. The bill provides nearly $900 billion of “relief.”

Most of the roughly $900 billion provides basic relief in the form of small-business aid ($325 billion), $600 checks for most Americans ($166 billion), and expanded unemployment benefits ($120 billion). Much of the remainder goes to things such as help for schools ($82 billion), health care ($63 billion), and transportation ($45 billion).

Trump objects to the “ridiculously low” $600 stimulus checks. He wants checks in the amount of $2,000.

I think sending stimulus checks in any amount to most Americans is ridiculous. The money should go where it is most needed. Many Americans who don’t need a government check, whether for $600 or $2,000, would receive one under the stimulus bill.

Trump does have support for doling out $2,000 checks, though. Tellingly, it comes from Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Pelosi immediately responded to Trump, saying:

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?

Let’s not.

Trump also objected to non-pandemic related spending Congress has appropriated. He stated:

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.

The last six words are delusional.

As for the wasteful and unnecessary items in the legislation, they are to be found mainly in a massive omnibus appropriations package and, to a far lesser degree, in a measure authorizing around $10 billion for water projects. They are not contained in the COVID relief deal itself. These three pieces of legislation (and a few others) were ushered through Congress together.

According to Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican, Trump’s team blessed the combining of these bills. Moreover, as Jim Geraghty points out, the spending in the omnibus appropriation bill to which Trump objects isn’t much different from provisions in previous omnibus bills he signed into law. That doesn’t mean he can’t object to them now, but it raises questions as to whether he should hold the relief package hostage to excising these provisions.

Geraghty also notes that the omnibus bill includes funding to keep the federal government open past December 29. If the president doesn’t sign it, and Congress doesn’t put together some short-term government-funding bill, the government shuts down.

Kinzinger says that Trump’s belated opposition to the legislation Congress passed is due to Twitter. “Since twitter erupted, [Trump] erupted,” Kinzinger claims.

This might very well be the case. On Sunday, Ben Williamson, a spokesman for White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, stated that Trump supported the legislation and would sign it.

I think Trump should sign it, for the reasons presented in this National Review editorial.

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