Stay in Mar-a-Lago, Trump. No one wants you back. (UPDATE)
Donald Trump is spending Christmas the way he has spent much of his presidency: tweeting, golfing, being lazy, and ignoring the hard work of being president while trying to destroy the efforts of leaders actually carving out policy.
Over his four years (thankfully coming to an end soon) as president, Trump has played a total of 302 games on the links, as of Nov. 28, 2020. “Trump has spent nearly 22% of his days in office at one of his golf properties,” reported Golf News Net.
All that swinging of clubs on the course doesn’t come cheap for the rest of us. U.S. taxpayers have footed the bill for a total of $143 million over the last four years to give Trump the chance to cheat at golf. That includes transportation on Air Force One or Marine One; lodging for Secret Service agents, often paid directly to Trump properties; golf cart rental by the same Secret Service agents, also paid directly to Trump properties, and more. A GAO report gave a total of nearly $13.6 million in taxpayer funds for four trips to Mar-a-Lago on consecutive weekends in just one month in 2017.
But you know what? Let Trump stay in Florida until President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021. No one seriously believes he’s going to show up for the inauguration, so why should Trump return to Washington just to cause more trouble?
Take the COVID-19 relief bill hammered out by Congress. The $908 billion package was finally passed by both houses of Congress, aiming to deliver $600 direct payments, extend unemployment benefits, fund COVID vaccine distribution, and so much more.
Of course, Democrats in the House passed their own version months ago in the form of the CARES Act, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn’t even send it to committee for discussion, much less bring it up for a vote or hammer out differences in conference. Democratic leaders met over the months with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to try to come up with a compromise. Democrats kept agreeing to lower and lower price tags (the original CARES Act would have delivered $1,200 per person in direct payments), all while working with high-ranking administration officials acting with Trump’s blessing. So any talk of the delay being a problem of a “broken Congress” is just lazy reporting and both-sides-ism at its worst: The delay was completely the fault of Senate Republicans.
So there was finally a $908 billion bill to help Americans immediately, coupled with funds to keep the government running. The bill passed both houses of Congress with veto-proof majorities and with promises from the White House that Trump would sign it.
Except Trump threw a hissy fit, claiming that $600 was “too low” — the figure needed to be $2,000 per person. This was after his own Treasury secretary and other White House officials promised they were acting in good faith.
Likely, Mnuchin and company did have promises that Trump would sign the bill. Trump is just trying to throw wrenches in the waning days of his presidency, to keep the spotlight on himself and to try to hobble the economy for incoming President Biden.
If Trump, pretending to be a populist once more, really cared about the U.S. populace, why was he AWOL for all these months of budget negotiations? A normal president (oh, who are we kidding) would have engaged with congressional leaders from both sides to hammer out a deal. But Trump was too busy tweeting lies about how the 2020 election, which he lost by over 7 million votes, was “rigged” (it was the most secure election in modern history); that there was “widespread voter fraud” (only, as it turns out, by a Pennsylvania GOP voter); and that voting machines were “switching Trump votes to Biden votes” (a claim so spurious that Dominion Voting Systems is suing the Trump campaign and conservative media for promoting the baseless lies).
Democrats gladly said, “$2,000 per person? Let’s do it!” Since the House isn’t in session, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to get the House to pass a separate measure by unanimous consent, but House Republicans balked at the dollar figure. So Congress is back to — exactly where?
Trump didn’t threaten a veto, he just felt like fuming. Will he actually sign the bill? Will he sit on the bill, ignoring it while he’s out on the links? Since a new Congress will be sworn in on Jan. 3, this bill could suffer the fate of a pocket veto, leaving millions of Americans with no extra money in their pockets. Even worse, the COVID relief package was tied to the budget measure funding the government, which runs out early next week. Pelosi says she’ll bring the House back into session right after Christmas for a new vote.
The Senate doesn’t want to revisit it. McConnell only finally brought the COVID relief package to a vote in an attempt to save the two Georgia Senate seats that might be lost in a Jan. 5 special election. Incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler were getting hammered on the campaign trail for their inaction on COVID relief (and for the fact that they both profited handsomely from buying stocks that did well in pandemic times).
All of this could be avoided by a little bit of Trump chicken scratching. Then he could head back to the links, issuing pardons for crooks and cronies in between golf swings. And we could finally start ignoring him.
Jan. 20 can’t come soon enough.
UPDATE: OK, Trump caved and signed the bill. But he only did so after there will be a lag in benefits. And while he demanded changes in the package — on items that his own proposed budget specifically requested — House Democrats basically said, “Not gonna happen.” As New York Rep. Rita Lowey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee who is retiring from Congress, said in an official statement: “The House Appropriations Committee has jurisdiction over rescissions, and our Democratic Majority will reject any rescissions submitted by President Trump. By turning the page on this request, we will allow the BIden-Harris administration to begin to Build Back Better.”