Vacation weeks to test Congress’ willingness to confront Trump

Earlier this week, Congress passed the massive coronavirus relief bill, which included up to $ 600 in payments to all Americans who made under certain income levels. Single people earning up to $ 75,000 would receive a total direct payment of $ 600, and couples earning up to $ 150,000 would receive $ 1,200. But on Tuesday, President Donald Trump signaled that he would not sign the bill if Congress did not amend the legislation and increase “ridiculously low” stimulus checks from $ 600 to $ 2,000 or $ 4,000 per couple.

On Thursday, House Democrats offered legislation through a unanimous consent agreement that raised stimulus checks to $ 2,000. It was blocked. Republicans asked for consent to reconsider financing of foreign aid that was on the bus. It was blocked. This sets up a dramatic next week on the floor.

There are two things to watch on Monday. First, the House is expected to try to override the president’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act. The government also runs out of funding at midnight on Monday and goes on Tuesday.

It is not yet clear whether the House will have votes to override the president’s veto of the Pentagon’s massive bill. The chamber was approved by the NDAA with a veto-proof majority of 335-78. But minority leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, said he will not vote to replace Trump now that he is returning. It is not known how many Republicans follow these steps. Thirty-seven Democrats voted against the proposal and could always overturn their votes to overturn Trump’s veto, but it is not clear whether they would do so.

After the Republican leadership said it would let members decide for themselves on how to handle the vote on Monday, it became much more difficult to know what exactly will happen.

In the meantime, lawmakers will need to pass another ongoing resolution on Monday, while members wait to see what Trump will do with spending and the stimulus bill to avoid a government shutdown. No one knows whether Trump will sign the funding extension.

If the House successfully overturns Trump’s veto of the NDAA, the plan now is for the Senate to try to do the same on Tuesday. Senators will be notified if a vote is scheduled. Some factors are in the air, including the fact that any senator could oppose a vote to overturn Trump’s veto. If that happens, McConnell will have to wait for time. This delays the entire process for several days and members would likely handle it when they return on Sunday, January 3.

In the meantime, a series of stimulus-related provisions will begin to expire.

The Brookings Institution estimates that as of Saturday, about 10 million Americans will begin to lose extended unemployment insurance. About 3 million more will begin to lose benefits in the following weeks, depending on the rules in their state. At the end of December, other provisions, such as the federal eviction moratorium, will expire. And while it can be extended by executive order, the uncertainty here is shocking for people who don’t know whether they will have a place to live in the new year.

Power transfer

Then there is the question of affirming Joe Biden as the next president of the United States.

On January 6, the Chamber and the Senate will meet in a joint session of Congress to count the electoral votes. There is an effort now underway for a small group of House members led by Republican Party representatives. Mo Brooks and Jim Jordan to challenge these results. But to do that, they will need a senator to report to them.

Regardless, the effort will eventually fail, but it can force a long and arduous day for leadership. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell privately discouraged his members from participating in what is supposed to be a relatively superficial process. The majority Whip, John Thune, said the effort would fall “like a dog’s shot.”

Clock is ticking

Complaints of Trump vs.  your own budget proposal

One more important note: these massive stimuli and spending accounts do not always stand up to scrutiny. The longer the legislation lasts, the more people understand what is inside it, the more members and constituents begin to raise their concerns, the more difficult it becomes to pass the projects again.

The huge expense account is the culmination of months of team work. Many of the items included in foreign aid were part of the president’s own budget request. But, it doesn’t matter if it suddenly becomes impossible to vote because of political pressure.

The idea that Congress will be able to wait until a new president arrives or simply overturn Trump’s veto on these items is probably an oversimplification at this point. Yes, the bill passed with huge margins, but would it go through the same numbers again after Trump torpedoed it? After your constituents started calling, now that you know exactly what’s inside? This is a much more difficult question and for which we do not have an answer now. Republican members are furious now, but are they willing to go publicly against Trump?

“Trump’s designated negotiator (the Treasury secretary) negotiated this bill, he signed the bill. He asked me to vote in favor of the bill. And now? He’s against the bill,” said a Republican member on Wednesday.