White House staffers have finally found the line they won’t cross when it comes to supporting President Trump. That line is helping ordinary Americans.
The Washington Post‘s Jeff Stein reported that Trump told allies on a Thursday call that he wanted Covid-19 relief checks to be “at least” $1,200-2,000 per person and was preparing to publicly call on Congress to include those checks in their Covid-19 bill. Payments of that size would provide meaningful relief to people who are suffering, as well as stimulating the economy as a whole. What they would not do, however, is line up with Republican stinginess that has capped the aid checks at $600 in the bill working its way through Congress.
And so Trump’s aides — who stood by while Trump tried to steal an election, who stuck with him while he winked at Proud Boys and gassed civil rights protesters, who indulged him while he downplayed Covid for his political gain — decided this was a bridge too far, the Post reported. Per a Post source who heard the conversation, the aides were “frantic” about Trump pushing for larger payments and successfully talked him out of it. “The aides were really frantic, saying, ‘We can’t do this. It will blow up negotiations,'” the source said.
Trump, who never backs down when it’s time to punch down, decided this time to drop one of the few decent impulses he’s ever had, instead deferring to his aides and holding the line with Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell and his GOP caucus, authors of $1.5 trillion-plus in tax cuts that are targeted primarily at corporations and the wealthy, have decided the relief bill can’t be bigger than $1 trillion. Right now it’s hovering around $900 billion, and that arbitrary spending cap is more important to the GOP than boosting the economy or helping the people who live in it.
So what’s Trump’s messaging plan now that he’s back on board with a GOP plan he clearly knows is a bad one?
Trump previewed it this past weekend in an interview with Fox News. “Right now, I want to see checks — for more money than they’re talking about — going to people,” Trump said. “I’m pushing it very hard, and to be honest with you, if the Democrats really wanted to do the deal, they’d do the deal.”
But it’s not the Democrats who are threatening to tank the deal over higher payments. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have publicly supported payments of at least $1,200, and House Democrats already passed a package with more relief.
Republicans, now once again with Trump’s backing, are set to cap their year by successfully limiting relief checks for ordinary people in an economy that, the Post’s Heather Long reports, has driven nearly 8 million Americans into poverty since the summer.