Government is not going to shut down Tuesday night. The federal moratorium on evictions will be extended, as will unemployment benefits for 14 million people on the brink of losing them, all restored as inexplicably and capriciously as they were endangered by Donald Trump. He relented in his latest tantrum Sunday night, signing the $900 billion coronavirus stimulus and government funding bill. In a statement announcing the bill signing, Trump once again demonstrated his utter lack of understanding of how any of this works.
“I will sign the omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed. I will send back to Congress a redlined version, item by item, accompanied by the formal rescission request to Congress insisting that those funds be removed from the bill,” Trump said. He can do that if he likes, but it has no effect in law. There is no line item veto on federal spending bills. As outgoing House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey tersely responded: “The House Appropriations Committee has jurisdiction over recessions, and out Democratic Majority will reject any rescissions submitted” by Trump. Trump also bizarrely claimed that Congress “has promised” they will do something about Section 230 (they haven’t) and will “focus strongly on the very substantial voter fraud which took place in the November 3 Presidential election,” (they haven’t) and that the “Senate will start the process for a vote that increases checks to $2,000, repeals Section 230, and starts and investigation into voter fraud.” The Senate is doing none of those things.
The House, however, is going to vote Monday to increase the direct payments from $600 to $2,000. “Now, the president must immediately call on congressional Republicans to end their obstruction and to join him and Democrats in support of our stand-alone legislation to increase direct payment checks to $2,000, which will be brought to the floor tomorrow,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Sunday night.
The House will also have to figure out how to make certain that Trump’s delay in signing the bill doesn’t cost the unemployed even more. Unemployment extensions for coronavirus and to gig workers expired Saturday, kicking millions out of the system. States will have to kickstart their systems again. Workers in some states might be forced to reapply for UI, and workers in most states are likely going to lose a week of benefits as well as a week of the $300 supplemental federal payment because of the delay. Congress can restore that, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to cause immediate pain, even though there will at least be the $600 direct payments.
“For families wondering how they will pay January rent or buy groceries, a weekslong delay could have serious consequences,” Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement Sunday. “While it’s a huge relief that the bill is being signed, Donald Trump’s tantrum has created unnecessary hardship and stress for millions of families.” Stress that will continue for the unemployed. “They might get it at the back end, but there are bills tomorrow,” Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst for the National Employment Law Project, told The New York Times. “It’s just so frustrating that he couldn’t have figured this out yesterday. One day of delay is catastrophe for millions.”