Finally, after days of unnecessary waffles, President Donald Trump signed a $ 900 billion relief bill and associated spending bill.
Trump signed the stimulus package that Congress passed on the Sunday evening before Christmas. The package also includes a $ 1.4 billion finance bill to keep the federal government going through September 2021. This ends a confusing and chaotic episode. Had the president not signed, the United States could have seen the federal government shut down (existing funding expires at midnight Monday) and millions of Americans would have missed much-needed aid.
Trump waited so long for the bill to be signed that two unemployment insurance programs were allowed to expire, which could likely result in late benefits for unemployed people across the country and permanently cost workers a week of checks.
In a statement made at the signing, Trump pointed to his work to combat the pandemic and its economic impact and said he would call for “many resignations” on the bill. He said he was sending a “strong message making it clear to Congress that wasteful items must be removed” and would send lawmakers a streamlined version of the deal with its demands. These claims are unlikely to go anywhere.
In his statement, Trump also nodded to the House’s plan to vote for an increase in package stimulus checks from $ 600 to $ 2,000. He said the Senate would “initiate the process” for a vote that would increase checks but also repeal Section 230 – an Internet language law – and initiate an investigation into (unsubstantiated) allegations of election fraud. Again, this appears to be a non-starter: in a statement on Trump’s decision to sign the relief bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell failed to address these new issues.
How that even happened, briefly explained
In case you didn’t follow along, here’s a basic rundown of how we got here: Congress finally reached an agreement on a stimulus package of $ 900 billion in the days leading up to Christmas. The bill includes $ 600 stimulus checks, $ 300 weekly unemployment benefits through March, the expansion of other CARES unemployment programs, small business support, rental benefits, and food aid, among other things. A full explanation of the legal requirements can be found here. Lawmakers also wrapped the bulk spending bill in the deal, which is only needed to keep the government going.
Republicans and Democrats in Congress made concessions to get there – Democrats dropped their requests for state and local aid, and Republicans dropped their requests for corporate liability shields (which would have said corporations were not responsible if workers or customers of Covid- 19 fell ill).
The negotiating assumption among the negotiators was that Trump was on board the deal and that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who described the deal as “fabulous”, was on the same wavelength as the president. Congress passed the law and left for the holidays.
But that assumption was wrong – in a video posted on Twitter Tuesday night, Trump declared the bill a “disgrace” and called on Congress to “change” it and increase stimulus checks to $ 2,000 ( a request that his own party disagreed). and complained that the package contained “wasteful spending” that he wanted to remove.
And so the country went into the Christmas season – and Trump to his Mar-a-Lago resort – without anyone knowing what he was going to do. The Wall Street Journal reported that a copy of the bill would be printed and flown to Florida in case Trump chose to sign it. The Washington Post reported that the president had repeatedly changed his mind.
He gave in on Sunday. Trump is still asking for changes to the bill, but it’s pretty unlikely at this point. House Democrats will still try to get stimulus checks from $ 600 to as high as $ 2,000. While the president endorses the idea, it is unlikely to be going anywhere. Republicans in the House blocked a vote on the measure last week. The House will hold a recorded vote on the matter on Monday, which will likely pass the House of Commons, but has little prospect in the Senate.
Trump’s decision to delete Section 230 and electoral fraud investigation make progress even less likely. He has also vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act and tried to force a repeal of Section 230, but Congress will override his veto. Section 230 basically states that internet companies, with few exceptions, are free to monitor their online platforms however they want and are not responsible for what people post on them. Facebook and Twitter have been increasingly aggressive about monitoring Trump’s own false and misleading claims, and the President appears to be angry with these content moderation practices, which is why he has made Section 230 the centerpiece of his complaints.
Whether or not this is a win to Trump, it is a loss to the unemployed
After Trump finally gave in and signed the stimulus package, there was some debate over whether this was a win or a loss for him. The president didn’t really get everything he wanted here – the bill goes as it is, and the $ 2,000 stimulus checks will likely be stopped by his own party. It is good that the government is not going to close and the stimulus package is important and helpful.
However, regardless of the political issues on the outgoing president’s board of directors, the back and forth created a lot of stress for the unemployed and could ultimately cost them money. Two programs for the unemployed introduced under the CARES Act – one for contractors, freelancers and gig workers, and one that adds extra insurance weeks – were allowed to expire on December 26th. They will be put back into operation take your time. Congress had already hesitated so much that there would be problems with the programs, and Trump made matters worse. The deal also included additional weekly unemployment benefits of $ 300 for 11 weeks. Since Trump was waiting to sign the bill, it could be reduced to 10.
It is a win that the President has finally signed the legislation for people who need the money, but it’s less of a win than it should have been.
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