President Trump’s surprise Tuesday night video cataloging his complaints about the massive — and painstakingly negotiated — $900 billion coronavirus relief bill immediately raised the specter of a government shutdown and economic turmoil at a time when aid is desperately sought for millions of Americans.
The President didn’t explicitly threaten to veto the bill, and his White House said earlier in the night that he would sign it, but in a video released on Twitter, he added a layer of confusion to a delicate process that includes not only Covid-19 relief but a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package that funds the federal government.
Here are some key things to know:
First, some facts: The White House explicitly told Senate Republicans weeks ago that it supported pursuing the omnibus (all 12 appropriations bills tied into a single big package) and those negotiations took place for weeks.
The White House was fully aware of what was in the bill and what was agreed upon, though White House officials acknowledged late Tuesday that Trump himself had not received a detailed briefing on the package before its passage.
Most of the items the President listed off as problematic in his Tuesday night video weren’t from the Covid relief piece of the package. They were from the omnibus. Most, if not all, of those items were similar to items in past spending packages the President has signed.
Most notably, two people involved with the matter say, the President is fired up about the foreign aid in the package. Again, that has been part of each spending package he’s previously signed — but Trump was riled up in part by commentators on conservative media who complained about the aid, according to people familiar.
There is no appetite for changes on Capitol Hill: As for his request to “amend” the bill, well, both chambers have passed the legislation, and at this point, aides on both sides say, there’s no plan to make any move to acquiesce to the President’s request on the cleared package. Early talk is that both sides may just ignore it and see if he cools off. The government is operating under a seven-day continuing resolution, so there’s some time here. The real deadline is December 28.
“Maybe he’ll become obsessed with something else and forget about this whole episode,” one senior Democratic aide told CNN. “Or maybe he’ll just blow the thing up. Perfect coda to his time in office.”
But at the moment, aides on both sides of the aisle are mostly just dumbstruck.
“It’s a weird thing where I’m not at all surprised because of course he’d do this, but also kind of stunned because he’s been so preoccupied with everything else that this seemed in a good place,” one senior Republican aide told CNN.
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