President Donald Trump has once again thrown Washington into chaos, making uneven demands that have left lawmakers baffled and Americans coping with a global pandemic uncertain when they’ll be getting long-promised financial help.
On Tuesday night, Trump blindsided all of Washington — including his own staff — with a series of eleventh-hour demands to amend coronavirus relief and government funding legislation that his own administration had helped carefully craft and supported. Overnight and into Wednesday, senior Republicans, Hill aides and even White House officials scrambled to figure out what Trump actually wanted, just as lawmakers — and Trump — prepare to leave town for the holidays.
There’s no clear answer, though. No one on either side of Pennsylvania Avenue appears to know what Trump’s plan is — or even if there is one. House Republicans held a brief conference call Wednesday afternoon, where they received little clarity on the situation. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Republicans he spoke to Trump, but that the president hasn’t committed to anything yet, according to two people on the call.
The White House, meanwhile, did not respond to questions about the legislation.
“Complete clusterf—,” summarized one top Republican Hill aide.
The whole episode has frustrated some rank-and-file Republicans, who aired their grievances during the private party call, sources said. Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska complained Trump threw Republicans under the “bus,” while Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina said they need to have members going on TV to set the record straight about the legislation.
The repercussions of inaction could be dramatic. If lawmakers and White House aides can’t convince the president to sign a funding and Covid relief package by Monday, the government will enter the fourth shutdown of Trump’s presidency. And millions of Americans had been told to expect another round of direct payments from the government shortly, while businesses across the country were expecting more financial assistance.
Yet Trump left town Wednesday afternoon without saying a word about the bill, departing for his South Florida Mar-a-Lago resort, where he plans to stay through the new year. And no one seems to know what will happen next. [Continue reading…]