Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t yet responded to President Trump demanding Tuesday night that Congress include $2,000 stimulus checks in the coronavirus aid package that it passed on Monday, which included smaller $600 checks for individuals.
The last-minute objection to the accord that Congress carefully crafted with very little if any involvement from Trump came after McConnell, R-Ky., said Monday, “The Senate just passed another major bipartisan, COVID-19 relief package. The American people can rest assured that more help is on the way, immediately.”
That no longer is such a sure thing.
At the head of the Republican Senate majority, McConnell will be key to whether or not there is any movement on Trump’s demands. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., meanwhile has said she will bring the $2,000 checks to the House floor and attempt to pass them by unanimous consent. That will happen on Thursday.
“Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks,” Pelosi said. “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!”
Pelosi re-upped her calls on Wednesday morning: “Mr. President, sign the bill to keep government open! Urge McConnell and McCarthy to agree with the Democratic unanimous consent request for $2,000 direct payments! This can be done by noon on Christmas Eve!”
It’s likely at least one House Republican will object to the request, though House GOP leadership has not formed a plan yet on what to do in light of Trump’s Tuesday video. McConnell has not announced any plan on behalf of the Senate GOP and his office has not responded to requests for comment asking about the leader’s plans.
Trump also objected to provisions that he called “wasteful and unnecessary” that were included in the year-end omnibus package to fund the government, a separate package that was married to the coronavirus aid so all of the legislation could be passed in one vote as lawmakers rushed out of town for Christmas.
That controversial spending, including foreign aid for several countries that the president listed on Tuesday, is similar to aid the president has approved repeatedly throughout his term.
In fact, Trump explicitly objected to funding for Cambodia, Burma and Egypt in his Monday comments. According to USAID, the Trump administration disbursed aid to all three countries in each previous fiscal year of his presidency. That includes $78 million and $106 million each year for Cambodia; between $148 million and $122 million each year for Burma; and between $121 million and $1.2 billion each year for Egypt.
Some members of Congress voiced process objections to the fact that the bills were combined into one massive 5,000-page-plus piece of legislation that members had just hours to read. They said it should have been broken up into many bills with individual votes.
But Trump appeared to confuse the coronavirus deal, which was reached over the weekend, with the government funding provisions, which were negotiated separately.
“A few months ago, Congress started negotiations on a new package to get urgently needed help to the American people. It’s taken forever,” Trump said. “However, the bill they are now planning to send back to my desk is much different than anticipated. It really is a disgrace.”
The president did not directly threaten to veto the massive piece of legislation, though it is possible that he could prevent it from being law through a rare pocket veto. A direct or a pocket veto would not only stall the $600 checks and other coronavirus-related aid, but it would put the government at risk of running out of funding next week as it is currently running on a one-week stopgap that was meant to last only until after the president signed the funding bill.
Trump’s comments – which came on the same night he lambasted both McConnell and Senate Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D. – will test the resolve of Republicans to stand up to the lame-duck president in the waning days of his administration. Very few Republicans have said they can get on board with checks of the size the president is calling for.
Trump also threw a wrench into the Georgia Senate races, as Sens. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., are already taking heavy incoming fire from their opponents after they, like McConnell, touted the coronavirus stimulus as a major victory — just hours before the president called it a “disgrace.”
Fox News’ Blake Burman, Jason Donner and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.