He golfed and complained — and millions of Americans lost much-needed benefits.
Donald Trump delayed signing the pandemic relief bill for days, claiming he thought the bill was too stingy. Then, on Sunday, he signed it anyway — costing millions of unemployed Americans at least a week of benefits.
Last week, Trump's administration agreed to a bipartisan agreement to keep the federal government funded and to provide $908 billion in emergency funds to combat the pandemic and the economic problems it has created. Congress passed the deal by overwhelming supermajorities and expected Trump to quickly sign it into law. His staff reportedly planned for him to sign the bill on Thursday.
But experts warned that if Trump didn't approve the relief bill quickly, Americans in need of assistance would lose out. Had Trump signed the bill by Saturday, unemployed Americans would have received 11 weeks of $300 payments from the federal government in addition to the regular state payments.
"At the very least, we lose a week of the $300," the National Employment Law Project's Michele Evermore told Business Insider Saturday, noting that other assistance programs would at best be delayed. "No matter what, if he doesn't sign, next week it goes down to 10 weeks of an extra $300."
Instead, Trump announced on Tuesday that he thought the bill was a "disgrace" and later canceled the planned signing ceremony. Rather than sign the bill or try to negotiate changes, he spent the holidays golfing at his Florida resort.
He did find time to fire off a series of angry tweets, objecting to the "measly" payments in the bill his administration had backed and complaining about "billions of dollars in 'pork'" in the agreement.
"Made many calls and had meetings at Trump International in Palm Beach, Florida. Why would politicians not want to give people $2000, rather than only $600?" Trump wrote on Friday afternoon, referencing the $600-per-person stimulus checks included in the bill for most Americans. "It wasn’t their fault, it was China. Give our people the money!"
His complaints drew the ire of at least one House Republican. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) tweeted Wednesday that "100% of the items" Trump complained about in the bill "were either a lie" or were "things in HIS budget."
On Sunday, Trump tweeted that he had "Good news on Covid Relief Bill. Information to follow!" He then signed the bill he had previously called disgraceful.
As a candidate in 2016, Trump ran as a master dealmaker who was uniquely suited to working with congressional leaders of both parties. But over his four years in office, he has had little success with his hardball tactics. In last 2018 and early 2019, he forced the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history in a failed attempt to force Congress to appropriate billions for his massive wall along the southern border.
As in that fight, his stalling tactics ultimately achieved nothing this time around.
The bill he signed on Sunday night was the exact same one he could have signed days earlier. The only difference is that because of his delays, millions of the people he claimed he wanted to help will have to wait an extra week for their benefits. And in the end, his delays will cost many of them $300 each.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.