Special Federal Update: COVID Relief Bill Signed
— TRUMP REVERSES COURSE, SIGNS OMNIBUS PACKAGE. Just days after a scathing White House address where he criticized key elements of the omnibus and coronavirus relief package, President Donald Trump signed the $2.3 trillion measure into law on Sunday night. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were left flummoxed by the President’s pre-holiday rebuke of the spending measure — the results of months of bipartisan negotiations — which he argued should include direct payments of $2,000 per person, up from $600. However, after a series of phone calls with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), as well as a discussion Friday with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), President Trump was ultimately convinced to get to “yes” on the spending package.
— TRUMP FLOATS ‘RECISSIONS’ TO PARE BACK OMNIBUS SPENDING. While the President signed the spending bill to avert a potential government shutdown on Tuesday, his statement also included a request for Congress to claw back some of the spending provisions in the deal. The arcane process, known as rescissions (see here for a helpful primer), can be used by the President to facilitate the cancellation of certain appropriated spending. The executive branch is legally required to spend money that Congress has appropriated, but President Trump may temporarily delay certain spending while asking Congress to consider cutting that funding. Congress, however, appears poised to thwart that request: “The House appropriations committee has jurisdiction over rescissions, and our Democratic majority will reject any rescissions submitted by President Trump," House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) said in a statement.
— TRUMP PUSHES $2,000 CHECKS, ELECTION FRAUD CLAIMS, SECTION 230. President Trump, as part of his statement announcing that he’d signed the omnibus bill, continued to focus on several of his priorities including his push for $2,000 checks and repealing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. “The Senate will start the process for a vote that increases checks to $2,000, repeals Section 230, and starts an investigation into voter fraud," he said in his statement. The House will vote this evening on legislation that would change the $600 in the coronavirus relief-omnibus package to $2,000, but the measure is expected to face steep political headwinds, with a significant cadre of GOP senators opposed to more money for stimulus checks. On Fox News Sunday, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) called the checks “terribly untargeted,” resisting the President’s calls to increase the size of the checks.
— HOUSE LOOKS TO OVERRIDE NDAA VETO. House lawmakers will vote tonight to override Trump’s rejection of the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed both chambers of Congress with more than the two-thirds majority needed to overcome a veto. Some Republicans have said they would sustain Trump’s veto despite supporting the bill earlier this month, while a few Democrats who previously voted against the measure could switch their votes to rebuke President Trump. Notably, overriding a veto requires two-thirds of those voting, not two-thirds of the entire chamber — a dynamic that may support the prospects for overriding the President’s veto.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said that the upper chamber will return tomorrow (Tuesday) to start the process if the House is successful today. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) — who briefly held up passage of the NDAA earlier this month — has indicated he could similarly delay an override vote. Senators have suggested the final vote could happen the morning of January 3, just hours before the new Congress is sworn in.