President Donald Trump threw U.S. politics into chaos on Tuesday when he threatened to veto a bipartisan spending and coronavirus relief package.
The threat: In a speech posted late Tuesday on his Twitter account, Trump condemned the legislation as "a disgrace" crammed full of wasteful spending.
- Trump called on Congress to increase the size of direct payments to Americans from "the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000" and "get rid of wasteful and unnecessary items."
- He added that there's not enough money in the package for small businesses.
Trump demanded Congress "send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package."
I... basically agree with what he's saying here. https://t.co/fEwgeJZ6yi— Robby Soave (@robbysoave) December 23, 2020
Congress passed the $2.3 trillion package on Monday night by a veto-proof margin, following months of negotiations involving Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
The mayhem: Trump's 11th-hour intervention in the legislative process scrambled politics as usual on Capitol Hill — exposing rifts in both parties and creating strange bipartisan alliances.
Several Democratic lawmakers condemned Trump, accusing him holding up urgently needed economic aide.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said in an appearance on MSNBC on Tuesday night: "This is an attack on every American."
- "He is literally trying to burn this country down on his way out," she added.
Minutes later, though, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted her support for bigger stimulus checks, which her party had advocated during the negotiations.
- "Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent," she said. "Let’s do it!"
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer quickly agreed, as did leaders of the Democrats' left wing, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent.
- The Democratic candidates in Georgia's Jan. 5 runoff — which will determine control of the Senate — both said Trump is "right" to demand $2,000 checks and used the issue to attack their more fiscally conservative Republican opponents.
On Wednesday morning, Klobuchar returned to MSNBC to get on the bandwagon, saying of Trump's proposal, "Let's get it done."
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has yet to publicly respond to the demands by Trump and the Democrats for a redo of the relief bill and the spending plan.
However, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said on Twitter on Tuesday that he appreciated Pelosi's position, urging, "Let's go big for the American people."
Populist Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, one of six Republican senators who voted against the package, also sided with the president.
- "[Trump] is right - workers deserve much more than $600, as I have repeatedly said & fought for," Hawley tweeted on Tuesday.
- "And there’s obviously plenty of $$ to do it - look at what Congress threw away on corporate giveaways & foreign buyouts. Let’s get it done."
Sen. Rand Paul — a libertarian-leaning Kentucky Republican who gave a viral floor speech against the legislation — said on Fox News on Wednesday that he hoped Trump would go ahead and veto the "socialist spending."
- But he said, "It’s a really foolish egg-headed left-wing socialist idea to pass out free money to people, so I part ways with the president on giving people free money."
The motive: Reporters and pundits have scrambled to explain why Trump would divide his party, putting McConnell in a political bind and potentially jeopardizing his party's Senate majority.
- According to Axios' Mike Allen and Glen Johnson, that's exactly the point: "Trump wants the Republican Party to remain beholden to him, and is desperate to retain his GOP power past Jan. 20," they said.