After dragging his feet a bit — just long enough to muck up the unemployment boost — Trump has signed the COVID-relief bill. It’s open to interpretation what he thought he was accomplishing.
There are some political benefits to all this theater. It probably distracted attention from his controversial pardons, for example, and made Americans aware that he wanted to give everyone $2,000.
In terms of policy, though, I’m not sure much will change.
Per the statement Trump released when he signed the bill, the House will vote on $2,000 checks and the Senate will “start the process for a vote that increases checks to $2,000, repeals Section 230, and starts an investigation into voter fraud.” But there’s no guarantee the support will be there to pass any of this. For example, many Senate Republicans are leery of bigger checks and more spending — which is why the checks were set at $600 to begin with.
Further, Trump is giving Congress “rescission requests” asking them to take out some foreign aid and pork. But this, too, will depend on Congress voting to undo what Congress already did, after the president has signed it into law. As Chad Pergram at Fox puts it:
The administration must now send to Capitol Hill a list of items that it wants to be cut. It’s then up to Congress to advance a potential rescissions bill. And, with only a few days left in this Congress, such a request is nearly out of the question. It’s possible Congress could address the proposal before Mr. Trump leaves office January 20. But doubtful.
Congress does not have to vote on a rescissions bill and often ignores such requests. But, technically, an administration can only withhold . . . funds for a month and a half. If Congress doesn’t act on the rescission request, the Treasury has to spend the money.
Is there going to be another round of serious debate on all this stuff? Or is Congress just going to stick to the deal it already negotiated and passed? That bill is now a law, after all.
On a side note, $2,000 checks are still a terrible idea. Many Americans have not been financially damaged by the pandemic, and it makes zero sense to send them more taxpayer money. If Congress wanted to spend more, the additional dollars should have been directed toward individuals and businesses that are actually struggling.