The president did not explicitly threaten to veto the bill, and his White House said earlier in the night that it would sign it, but in a video posted on Twitter, he added a layer of confusion to a delicate process. which includes not only the Covid -19 exemption, but a $ 1.4 trillion omnibus spending package funded by the federal government.
The White House explicitly told Senate Republicans weeks ago that it supports pursuing the omnibus (all 12 bills related to loans tied up in one large package) and that these negotiations have been going on for weeks.
The White House was fully aware of what was in the bill and what was agreed, although White House officials acknowledged late Tuesday that Trump himself did not receive a detailed briefing on the package before it passed.
Most of the items that the president listed as problematic in his Tuesday night video were not from the Covid relief piece of the package. They were on the bus. Most, if not all, of these items were similar to the items in previous spending packages signed by the President.
In particular, two people involved in this issue say that the president is fired on the external aid in the package. Again, this was part of every spending package he had previously signed – but Trump was partly upset by conservative media commentators who complained about the aid, according to family members.
No appetite for change on Capitol Hill
As for his request to “amend” the bill, well, both chambers have passed the legislation, and at the moment, both sides’ aides say there is no intention to make any move to accept the president’s request for approved package. The early discussion is that both sides could ignore it and see if it gets cold. The government is operating on a seven-day continuous resolution, so there is still time here. The real deadline is December 28.
“Maybe he’ll become obsessed with something else and forget about this whole episode,” a senior Democrat assistant told CNN. “Or maybe he’ll throw up a problem. Perfect code for office time.”
But right now, the assistants on both sides of the aisle are mostly amazed.
“It’s a strange thing that I’m not surprised at all because, of course, he would do it, but also kind of amazed because he was so preoccupied with everything else that it seemed like a good place,” he said. a senior Republican assistant told CNN. .
Democrats are rushing
Several GOP aides and senators, along with many White House officials, told CNN that they had not been warned that the change of president would come against the package. White House officials have said in the days leading up to the move – and after – that Trump intends to sign.
However, Democrats grabbed the president who propelled them with a fast ball. Speaker Nancy Pelosi will move on Thursday to pass legislation for $ 2,000 direct payments by unanimous agreement.
“Republicans have repeatedly refused to say how much the president wanted for direct checks,” Pelosi wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night. “Finally, the president agreed to $ 2,000 – Democrats are ready to bring this to the floor this week with unanimous agreement. Let’s do it!”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has asked Trump to sign the package adopted this week – and then work with Congress to extend direct payments.
Trump has long sought higher direct payments
As for the size of direct payments, this was an issue that Trump has been talking to assistants for weeks, according to two officials who spoke to him. The $ 600 level was, in fact, the proposal of its Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, its main negotiator for this whole business – both for Covid’s help and for the omnibus. Mnuchin was on television on Tuesday, selling the merits of the deal. While Trump has advocated for higher payments, he has never explicitly threatened to torpedo the bill if it were not included, said a person familiar with the matter.
Finally: at any time, the President could have taken part in those discussions himself and would no doubt have had a major effect. He just never did. He wrote on Twitter. Occasionally comment in groups. He was briefed by Mnuchin and the director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, but never engaged directly. He was at most a passive player and, most often, completely absent, according to senators and aides from both parties. Trump has been almost exclusively focused on his efforts to overthrow the election, paying attention to little else in recent weeks.
Another note: the package passed with a majority against the veto, but it is not clear what that means if Trump decides to become nuclear. House Republicans tend to move wherever Trump moves, so the initial number of votes may not be operational. However, it is too early for that. Right now, everyone is on standby.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.