Christmas is over. The beginning of the New Year is only days away and, thanks to Donald Trump we face an amazing situation. Donald Trump is golfing in Florida during a ten day vacation there. That is hardly a surprise. He has gone golfing over two hundred times since he took office. The tax payers have spent over one hundred and fifty million dollars so that the President can play golf. It costs to fly Air Force One down to Florida. Trump almost always plays at his own resorts. In addition to their salaries he charges something on the order of $600 dollars a night for each of the Secret Service agents who guard him. That all adds up.
In the meantime, back in Washington, chaos reigns. The programs put in place to help the unemployed (or underemployed) run out tomorrow (Monday, Dec. 28th). The Democrats in the House passed a relief bill for the unemployed back in May. In the Senate, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to even bring the bill up for consideration.
Then more recently as it became clear that further delay would hurt the election chances of the Republican candidates in the January special Senate elections in Georgia, Mitch McConnell suddenly decided a relief bill would be good after all. And, after extended negotiations between Nancy Pelosi, Charles Schumer from the Senate, and Steve Mnuchin (Ma-nu-chin), the Treasury Secretary acting for the White House, a compromise pandemic relief bill was created that everyone, including McConnell, could live with.
Congress has also failed to pass into law the annual appropriations bills that provide funding for the government’s departments and agencies. There is a regular legally scheduled process which is supposed to result in all departments and agencies being funded by October 1st of each year. That allows them to withdraw money from the Treasury. Republicans have been ignoring that process for a number of years, largely because they can never agree among themselves about how much to cut. Democrats, a minority in the Senate, stand helplessly by.
So, this year, once more, the Congress has been forced to rely on a series of continuing resolutions which extend the old budget. The last big extension ended several weeks ago. We probably now face another weekly extension on Monday. If they don’t pass another extension or an appropriations bill for the whole government, then at midnight Tuesday (Dec. 29th) the government will begin to shut down.
So, with a compromise bill for employment relief and a huge appropriations bill finally ready, in order to get everything through by the Monday December 28 deadline (and to encourage Republicans to go along with a relief bill), the relief bill and the government financing appropriations bill were fastened together as the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. It worked! The House and the Senate passed the consolidated bill with huge numbers on December 22nd.
And then it all fell apart. Donald Trump, since the election, has ceased functioning as a president and has, instead, concentrated on his hapless effort to overturn the election. The government has gone on without him. With the budget and the relief bill passed he announced that he would not sign it. He has demanded several changes. The most important was that the $600 one time payment for each person be increased to $2000. There were also complaints about money going for some functions of government that had nothing to do with solving the problems posed by the pandemic.
His most devoted supporters have seldom understood just how little Donald Trump actually knows about the government he was elected to administer. He apparently had come to assume that the whole combined bill was about the pandemic. He either didn’t know or forgot that the largest portion of the “consolidated” bill, 1.4 trillion dollars, was the cost of running the government through the end of next September. The pandemic relief portion was to be 900 billion dollars.
So, the ability to fund all those government departments including the Department of Defense will end Tuesday night at midnight. For the unemployed, government help with unemployment ended on the 26th, and the government’s eviction moratorium is expiring. If Donald Trump does finally veto the bill, the House and Senate can probably, with a 2/3rds vote, override the President’s veto. But that will mean delay. The help that many need will come too late.
The President is in Florida playing golf. He may sign the bill anyway having taken revenge on Mitch McConnell and other prominent Republicans for accepting the fact that Joe Biden had won. Donald Trump can make things even worse by simply doing nothing. He has ten days to sign the bill but the tenth day falls after this Congress officially ends on January 3rd. If the tenth day falls after the congressional session ends it is considered a “pocket veto”. Help would have to wait till Joe Biden took office on January 20.
Donald Trump’s strategy (if there is one) is a bit of a mystery. Why would he uselessly antagonize the leadership of his own party? Why would he abandon so many of the most needy who supported him in all those rallies? The answer probably is that he doesn’t really expect to run again and he just doesn’t care. He did get in lots of golf!