Without being clear who is the author of the famous phrase “politics makes strange bedfellows,” it certainly fits like a glove to what is happening these final days of the Trump Administration with its open duel with Congress. If the president of the United States wanted to make amends to his fellow party members by raising the ante and demanding an increase in aid to the population from $600 to $2,000, he has undoubtedly succeeded, being applauded by the Democrats – who have voted for the increase – and has placed the majority of the Republican members of the Capitol in an implausible situation by converging the Democratic wishes with those of Trump.
But the President has been quick to respond, and the all-powerful Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has quickly scored on two fronts. One, by blocking the president’s initiative on the increase in stimulus checks that the House of Representatives, with a Democratic majority, approved with the president’s approval and with 275 votes in favor and 134 against (44 Republicans supported it). And two, by announcing that Republican senators will vote tomorrow, Wednesday, against Trump’s veto of the Defense bill, something that has never happened in the last almost 60 years.
McConnell’s decision aims to be the beginning of a saga that will phagocyze the activity of the Senate, at least, for the rest of the week. Because not only are the Democrats satisfied with the improved stimulus in the checks, but the two Republican senators from Georgia who are up for re-election next January 5th – and whose outcome will determine the final composition of the nation’s Senate – have positioned themselves in an electioneering fashion in favor of the increase. Marco Rubio, a Republican senator from Florida, joined his colleagues from Georgia, as did Josh Hawley (Missouri), one of their early supporters.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, called on the Upper House to pass the bill, which has already been certified by the House, although he made a small note: “There is a big difference in saying that you support the $2,000 check and fighting for that initiative to become law,” Schumer said. The Democrat then threw a wrench into his colleagues on the opposing side by questioning whether Republican senators would have the courage to take on three-quarters of the House of Representatives, most Democratic senators and the president of his own party.
In a speech on the floor, McConnell recalled that Trump signed on Sunday the bailout, approved last week by both houses of Congress, worth more than $900 billion, which included direct transfers of $600 to the most vulnerable taxpayers in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. In his speech, the Republican leader in the Senate noted that “during this process the President has highlighted three additional issues of national importance that he would like Congress to address together.
The first, as McConnell explained, the president would like more direct financial support for American households. “The second is the growing willingness on both sides of the aisle to at least reassess the special legal protections afforded to technology companies, including the ways they benefit some of the most prosperous and powerful technology giants,” he said. Finally, on the third point, McConnell cited investigations into alleged election fraud, alleged by Trump without offering any evidence. “These are three important issues that the president has linked. This week, the Senate will begin the process to put the focus on these three priorities,” he said, without going into more detail.
The activity of the Senate is going to be frenetic this last week of a year that ends with Donald Trump facing his own party while he still does not accept the results of the ballot boxes last November 3rd. If the president threatened, two days before Christmas, to veto the Defense budget approved by Congress, this past Monday, the House of Representatives with a Democratic majority reversed the president’s threatening veto, who is entering a self-destructive path, shortly after he had to give in and back down by bowing to pressure from Republicans and Democrats to sign the second great rescue of the U.S. economy.