More than 10,000 people in the U.S. died from COVID-19 in the time between when Donald Trump blew up the stimulus bill and when he finally signed it. No, he doesn’t care about that.
The millions of people desperate for unemployment assistance, along with millions more in peril of eviction are nowhere on his mind, either.
The economic crash that would have come after a simultaneous stimulus bill collapse, an eviction eruption and a government shutdown in the middle of a pandemic? Not of concern.
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The terrible disruption in vaccine distribution if the lights went out in the federal government? Whatever.
As the tension over Trump’s refusal to act reached peak intensity, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania finally found his voice amid the muted GOP amen chorus. If Trump fails to sign the dual relief/shutdown bill, said Toomey, “he’ll be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior if he allows this to expire.”
Senator Toomey, I do believe that ship has sailed.
Trump wanted his name in the papers, and that’s why this long week of fear and uncertainty was dropped on a nation already coiled in fear and uncertainty. It was an act of sadism, the deliberate infliction of pain on a population already on its knees. Folks need help badly, and instead they got the back of Trump’s orange little hand, again.
For the record, the man had no interest in seeing those direct payments increased to $2,000. This was a demand for another witless act of loyalty by congressional Republicans; further, it draws a bright red circle around the GOP’s refusal to disburse more funds directly to the people. This was, of course, deliberate. Speaker Pelosi dreams of being able to box in the GOP the way Trump has over the last week.
The “pork” in the bill Trump denounced was in fact a laundry list of items from his 2018 budget proposal which his administration requested be included in this legislation. Congress did as he requested and added the items to the stimulus, I suspect, to guarantee Trump’s signature. Ha. They forgot who they were dealing with.
The cruelty is the point, The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer astutely observed in October 2018, back when we innocently thought it couldn’t get any worse. “The Trump era is such a whirlwind of cruelty that it can be hard to keep track,” he wrote. Indeed, the latest chapter in this long book of deliberate pain now involves the 14 million people in need of unemployment assistance who were left to dangle, and dangle still, because of the delayed signing.
“Because Trump did not sign the bill on Saturday,” reports CNN, “those in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs will likely not receive a payment for the final week of the year. And the $300 federal enhancement may only last 10 weeks instead of 11 weeks for most folks. That’s because states can’t provide benefits for weeks that start before programs are authorized, but the legislation calls for the extra payments to end on March 14.”
The worst part? Trump stands humiliated. A nonsense signing statement claiming all sorts of considerations he wrung from Congress before signing is just that: Nonsense. He wants them to investigate election fraud, repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and demands that they strongly consider making those direct payments $2,000. Mitch McConnell, in his own statement thanking Trump for his signature, made no mention of these concessions. That means, for all practical purposes, they do not exist.
“Trump got taken to the cleaners,” reports Politico. “What a bizarre, embarrassing episode for the president. He opposed a bill his administration negotiated. He had no discernible strategy and no hand to play — and it showed. He folded, and got nothing besides a few days of attention and chaos. People waiting for aid got a few days of frightening uncertainty…. This is probably the most fitting coda to Trump’s presidency, and a neat encapsulation of his relationship with Congress. He never cared to understand the place and was disengaged from its work. They’ll be laughing — er, scratching their heads — at your genius about this one for a while, Mr. President.”
Why is Trump’s humiliation the worst part of all this? Surely, if any human being ever deserved a dollop of comeuppance on their menu, it is this small fraction of a man.
It is the worst part because of who and what we are dealing with. Trump will continue to be among the most powerful people on Earth for three weeks and a day. He has been publicly shamed and routed off the field, and all for absolutely nothing except a few days of bad attention. People of his bilious temperament are not known for going quietly under the best of circumstances, and for Trump, these circumstances are intolerable.
Compounding this defeat, the House and Senate have returned to Washington, D.C., and their first order of business is an override of Trump’s veto of the defense authorization bill. They have the votes, and most congressional Republicans are not willing to mess with military money, even if it means defying Trump.
If the veto override succeeds on the heels of his disgraceful behavior with the stimulus bill, Trump will not sit still and take his medicine. He will see betrayal on every Republican face and react like Vesuvius. There are still many ways for him to pull the building down before he’s gone, and if I know the man like I think I do, he will try every one of them before he leaves or is removed. That cramp in your stomach (and mine) is going to be there for a little while longer.