Chaos, misery and erratic behavior.
Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania has a grim outlook for President Donald Trump’s legacy—should he ultimately veto a $900 billion stimulus package over his demand for higher direct payments and subsequently allow a government shutdown to commence.
“I understand he wants to be remembered for advocating for big checks,” Toomey said on Fox News Sunday. “But the danger is he’ll be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior, if he allows this to expire.”
The legislation is attached to a $1.4 trillion annual spending measure to fund the government, which means the outgoing president must sign the relief bill before funding runs dry on Monday at midnight. By refusing to put his signature onto the bill by Saturday, Trump allowed unemployment benefits to lapse for an estimated 12 million Americans, as millions more will soon see their eviction protections expire at the end of the year.
“You don’t get everything you want, even if you’re the president of the United States,” Toomey said.
The Pennsylvania lawmaker, like many of his Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill, advocated for Trump to sign the package while continuing to demand that Congress increase the individual $600 checks included in the bill to $2,000 through a separate measure. But that’s easier said than done: Republicans oppose higher direct payments, evidence of which was demonstrated when House Republicans blocked a Democratic effort on Christmas Eve to approve $2,000 checks.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) (2nd L) speaks as President Donald Trump (R) listens during a meeting with congressional members in the Cabinet Room of the White House February 13, 2018 in Washington, DC.
“I think the best thing to do is sign this and then make the case for subsequent legislation,” Toomey continued. “We’ve got a bill right now that his administration helped negotiate. I think we ought to get that done.”
Despite his own administration officials—namely Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin—being involved in the marathon negotiations that produced the bipartisan aid deal, Trump has since jeopardized the legislation’s future by suddenly demanding $2,000 checks. He also wants hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid stripped from the budget, money that he requested earlier this year in his White House budget proposal.
“Increase payments to the people, get rid of the ‘pork,'” Trump said in an early morning tweet on Sunday. In separate posts over the weekend, the president also advocated for $2,000 direct payments by saying the pandemic “was China’s fault!” and labeling the current $600 checks as “measly.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will force Republicans in the lower chamber to go on record Monday with a recorded vote for $2,000 checks. The effort is expected to pass. However, its fate in the GOP-controlled Senate is dim, as Senate Republican leadership has signaled it will not consider the measure.
One of the main reasons, suggested Toomey, is because doling out $2,000 checks is “terribly untargeted.”
“Why would we be sending $2,000 to people with a six-figure income who’ve had no suspension, no reduction of their income at all,” he said. (This claim is false: those who make six-figure incomes are not eligible for the direct payments.)
“I think that the aid should be much, much more targeted,” Toomey continued. “It should be targeted to people who have actually lost their job, small businesses that are actually in danger of going under. Those are very real categories.”
No one in Washington knows how this stimulus stalemate will end. Millions have already seen their unemployment benefits expire as Congress must now prepare for a potential government shutdown in the midst of a struggling economy.
Meanwhile, Trump is vacationing at his South Florida Mar-a-Lago resort as he continues his refusal to sign the relief bill. He arrived at his nearby golf course Sunday morning, according to the White House press pool.
“The COVID relief measures are really, really important,” Toomey said. “People are out of work, certainly through no fault of their own.”