Trump Caved, and Congress Is Going to Ignore Him

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

For all the consternation from the left and the right about President Trump breaking norms, he sure seems to abide by norms a lot. In some cases, that’s a good thing. In other cases, it’s more questionable. His decision to about-face and sign the massive omnibus-COVID bill is an example of the latter.

After having his own appointees negotiate the bill, Trump surprised everyone by refusing to sign it last week, demanding more direct assistance be included. As I shared in a piece critical of Mitt Romney (see Mitt Romney Confirms He’s Mitt Romney), that was a position that made a lot of sense. If you are going to blow out spending, why not spend it on giving taxpayers their money back instead of that only being 7% of the package?

Trump had nothing to lose at this point by sticking to his threat to not sign the bill until he got what he wanted. Yet, he chose to go ahead and do so for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me. Any leverage he had is now gone, and no one should kid themselves by thinking his requests will be met.

There is no actual line-item veto. Congress is simply going to laugh in his face and thank him for his signature. If he truly wanted to see some of the waste removed, it needed to happen via amendments before he gave up the only card he had to play. That meant not signing this thing until Congress made their move first.

And while I understand putting a happy face on things, this by Liz Harrington is just nonsense.

No, this is exactly what business as usual looks like. While Harrington tries to make it seem like Trump threw down the gauntlet here, what actually happened is the reception of a bunch of unenforceable, completely meaningless promises. Even if the Senate wanted to go along with his requests, the Democrat-led House has already completely rejected the idea. There will be no changes to the bill coming. Further, Republicans themselves don’t want things to change. They are as enamored with the pork as the Democrats are.

Perhaps Dave Reaboi is right. Trump hasn’t had any real leverage for a while.

It’s not fun to admit, but even if Trump had sat on this bill, it would have been re-submitted in the new Congress and Joe Biden would have signed it. These are the consequences of losing (or being cheated). There was never much of a path forward here. Despite that, I would have liked to have seen Trump stick to his guns one last time just to make Washington squirm. Instead, he’s going out with a whimper by signing this monstrosity of a bill.

(Please follow me on Twitter! @bonchieredstate)