coronavirus stimulus

Trump Keeps Golfing As Jobless COVID Aid Expires, Shutdown Nears

The president departing Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Sunday. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

President Donald Trump, who continues to refuse to sign or veto the massive new bipartisan COVID-relief and omnibus spending bill, hit the links at his golf resort in West Palm Beach again on Sunday just hours after pandemic unemployment aid expired for millions of Americans. Should Trump’s obstinance persist, the federal government will be forced to shut down at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday. Trump has been vacationing at his Mar-a-Lago resort since December 23, and the bill was sent down to him shortly after. Vice-President Mike Pence is currently vacationing in Vail, Colorado.

As of Sunday afternoon, there is currently no evidence that the outgoing president — whose primary activities over the Christmas holiday have been golfing and perpetuating false claims of election fraud — will change his stance on signing the bill. However, in the typical unpredictability of his expiring administration, Axios reported on Sunday night that Trump signed the stimulus/spending bill.

On Saturday, he tweeted that he was still holding out for a new version of the $2.3 trillion spending package that would include no “pork” and send $2,000, rather than $600, direct payments to Americans. House Republicans have already blocked a proposal from House Democrats to increase the size of those checks. Though Trump administration officials helped negotiate the contents of the legislation, the president himself took no part other than rejecting it after the fact. Trump’s understanding — or at least public characterization — of the spending package, which includes a second $900 billion COVID stimulus, appears to be meme’s-length at best.

President-elect Joe Biden criticized Trump’s inaction on Saturday, calling it an “abdication of responsibility” with “devastating consequences” for the countless Americans facing economic hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic. Both GOP and Democratic lawmakers, who passed the spending package by a wide margin last week, have continued to call for Trump to sign the bill. Republican senator Pat Toomey said during a Fox News Sunday appearance that Trump will “be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior if he allows [COVID relief] to expire.”

“You don’t get everything you want, even if you’re the president of the United States,” he added.

The misery has now officially begun, notes the Associated Press:

The impact of the sidelined aid is already being felt. Lauren Bauer of the Brookings Institution has calculated that at least 11 million people were losing aid from the programs immediately without additional relief; millions more would exhaust other unemployment benefits within weeks. How and when people would be affected by the lapse depended on the state they lived in, the program they were relying on, and when they applied for benefits …

About 9.5 million people, however, had been relying on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that expired altogether Saturday. That program made unemployment insurance available to freelancers, gig workers, and others who were normally not eligible. 

It’s not entirely clear how Congress will respond on Monday, but it may be forced to pass another stopgap spending bill should Trump still seem unlikely to sign the bill before the shutdown deadline — and that’s not the only deadline fast approaching.

Trump Keeps Golfing As COVID Aid Expires, Shutdown Nears