The entire reason Congress sent a $900 billion coronavirus relief package to President Donald Trump, instead of the far more generous, $2.2 trillion bill House Democrats previously passed, was because coping with a national emergency took priority over all else. The House bill stood no chance of passage in the Republican-controlled Senate. The smaller bill, approved this week after months of intense haggling, was a hard-fought, bipartisan compromise designed to get help as quickly as possible to millions of Americans in financial distress.
But Trump, still brooding over his election loss, declared Tuesday night that he might not sign the package. The pettiest of presidents, by all appearances, is threatening to punish the nation for refusing to reelect him. His behavior affirms why voters made the right choice on Nov. 3 to boot him from office.
Even further affirmation came Tuesday in Trump's decision to pardon four Blackwater security workers imprisoned for opening fire in 2007 on unarmed Iraqis in Baghdad, killing 17. The convicted killers were employed by Erik Prince, a major Trump campaign donor whose sister, Betsy DeVos, is Trump's education secretary.
Trump has never allowed obvious conflicts of interest to interfere with the advancement of his personal financial interests or the rewarding of his closest cronies. Nor has Trump allowed the interests of the nation to interfere with his need to feed his own ego.
Trump says he wants the stimulus package renegotiated so Americans would receive stimulus checks of $2,000 rather than the $600 Congress agreed to. Never once during talks between Trump's negotiator, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and congressional leaders did the president publicly state any such demand.
Trump's threatened delays mean desperate Americans could have to wait additional weeks or months for another stimulus package to pass Congress. The package is part of a $2.3 trillion spending bill to fund the government through next year. If Trump simply refuses to sign, the spending bill would become law by default after a 10-day waiting period. But it also would mean a government shutdown next week, adding even more uncertainty to an already turbulent economic picture.
Trump's tantrums serve no one's interests. Meanwhile, lawmakers on the far left are joining forces with colleagues on the far right in criticizing the 5,593-page spending package, saying they didn't have enough time to read it and complaining about its many wasteful special-interest perks. One of the most odious perks buried in the bill is a $6.3 billion tax break for business executives who want to write off what are derisively labeled as three-martini lunches.
Such objections would be totally justified under non-emergency circumstances. But right now, the ship is sinking after colliding with a coronavirus iceberg. This isn't the time to argue about the captain's dinner menu or the color of the lifejackets.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Photo credit: geralt at Pixabay