Will Trump veto COVID relief bill?

Just when it looked like a COVID relief (and catchall appropriations) package was sealed and delivered, President Trump gave a stark reminder that it’s not yet signed.

The president posted a four-minute video Tuesday evening on Twitter calling the $900 billion relief bill — the one that cleared Congress a day earlier, after months of partisan gridlock gave way to a seeming post-election compromise — a “disgrace.”

Without explicitly threatening a veto, he drew some clear lines — urging Congress to send him a “suitable bill,” which he defined as one that purges “wasteful and unnecessary items” and ups the value of stimulus checks from a “ridiculously low” $600 to $2,000 for individuals.

Trump decried funding for The Kennedy Center, foreign-aid promises, and more. Those are part of a massive appropriations package, not the COVID relief deal itself, though they were ushered through Congress together. Robert VerBruggen discussed these extras here, though noted that even the indefensible items pale in dollar-to-dollar comparison to “core COVID relief” such as small-business aid, expanded unemployment aid, and the stimulus checks that Trump wants increased. (Though, as NR wrote in its editorial on the matter, the stimulus checks are an unfocused antidote relative to targeted economic help such as unemployment aid.)

“Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists, and special interests while sending the bare minimum to the American people who need it,” Trump bemoaned.

Just in case you’d forgotten Trump hasn’t — at least publicly — given up the thought of somehow finding a way to invalidate President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory, the president then called on Congress to send him a “suitable bill, or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package, and maybe that administration will be me — and we will get it done.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to the president’s surprise video tweeting: “At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!”

Whether the parties really would scramble up a revised deal, and whether Trump would tempt a possible veto override in the event they don’t, remains to be seen. Washington has a stubborn habit of taking negotiations over must-pass spending and other legislation to the brink right around the holiday time. A government shutdown and complete freeze on promised COVID aid could be in the offing if this drags out.

Which is to say: Around Washington, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.