2020 Funding Showdown
Published on December 23, 2020 / Updated December 27, 2020
Last night President Trump took to Twitter to threaten with a Presidential veto the long-awaited COVID relief bill. In his remarks, he demanded Congress to amend the bill and increase to the size of individual “stimulus” checks to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for couples, indicating that Congress “found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests, while sending the bare minimum to the American people who need it.”
His remarks caught many off guard including members of his own party which had been negotiating for months on a Covid relief package without any indication of the President’s desires to extend additional assistance dollars to American families. As if to serve as a political cover, the move came the same day the President issued a series of pardons and commutations to several of his supporters mired in political controversy.
Today, the President took another bold step and made true his threats to veto the $740.5 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) bill, the annual defense spending legislation, a move that could negatively impact members of the military. According to several press reports, Republicans may break with the President and vote to override his veto. To do so, the President would need two-thirds of Congress to override the presidential veto. If the House and Senate are able to sustain the same amount of votes that were secured to pass the Act through both chambers, this can be done as early as next week. The House has already scheduled a vote on Monday to do so.
The current short-term continuing resolution (CR) also expires next Tuesday, December 29, meaning that Congress has little time to make adjustments to the Covid relief bill. It’s also very unlikely that Congress would opt to amend the omnibus/COVID package as the President suggested since it could inadvertently open up a Pandora’s box that had been carefully shut after months of impasse. The more likely scenario is that Congress act on increased payments through separate legislation. However, in order for the House to pass a standalone bill, they must opt for a Unanimous Consent vote, requiring both parties to agree on the procedural rule.
In any case, both legislative vehicles – the CR and the NDAA – provide an opportunity for the President and lawmakers to hash out a solution before the end of year for additional payments to individuals. Until then, what we face is a new risk for a government shutdown next week, perhaps a suitable roller-coaster ending to 2020.
Update: On Sunday, December 27, 2020, President Trump signed the $900 billion COVID relief package and goverment funding bill, averting Tuesday’s government shutdown.