For Christmas this year, Washington is giving the country more pain.
Perhaps it is fitting that in the worst year in memory, the surprise prospect of a government shutdown and delayed economic relief hangs over holiday celebrations already made less merry by the pandemic.
Maybe nothing better could be expected in a year that saw denial and delusion, led by President Donald Trump, presage a wave of illness and death coupled with evictions, bankruptcies, hunger and ruined livelihoods.
But after enduring so much, Americans can hardly be blamed for feeling outrage at yet another indignity at the hand of their leaders.
The joint Covid relief package and government funding bill that Trump has lambasted arrived at Mar-a-Lago Friday after being flown down a day earlier. Yet Trump, who arrived at his namesake golf course just before 10 a.m. local time, has offered no clues as to whether he’ll sign it.
As Trump plays rounds of golf in Florida and pardons corrupt loyalists, and as congressional leaders line up for the first doses of a coronavirus vaccine, there is scant evidence the pressing needs of the country will be addressed in anything resembling a timely fashion.
House Republicans on Thursday rejected an attempt by Democrats to pass a bill that included $2,000 direct payments to Americans — precisely the figure Trump demanded in a random video he tweeted this week rejecting a bill with $600 payments that had passed overwhelmingly with the support of his administration.
In the Republican-controlled Senate, there does not appear to be enough support for a bill with $2,000 checks. Trump is engaged in open hostility with the chamber’s GOP leaders because they have acknowledged the reality that he lost the election, a dispute he acknowledged on Twitter after returning to Mar-a-Lago from his golf course on Christmas Eve Day.
“At a meeting in Florida today, everyone was asking why aren’t the Republicans up in arms & fighting over the fact that the Democrats stole the rigged presidential election?” he asked, using the term “meeting” somewhat freely. “Especially in the Senate, they said, where you helped 8 Senators win their races. How quickly they forget!”
The bill Trump demanded Congress change was flown to him in Florida on Thursday afternoon but he offered no more clarity on what he would do with it. Government funding will lapse on Monday unless Trump signs the package or Congress passes another stopgap measure; they have already passed four such fixes this month alone.
That no one seems to know what Trump wants — if he even knows himself — has only fueled in the impression the country is careering further into chaos at exactly the moment it is least welcome.
“I have no idea what he plans to do,” Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican who is usually aligned with the President, said on Thursday.