Republicans vent over surprise Trump move on COVID-19 relief

Bonnie Cash

House Republicans vented during a conference call held Wednesday over President Trump’s threat to veto the sweeping coronavirus relief and omnibus spending package, which could potentially tee up an end-of-the-year government shutdown.

Trump in a video post to Twitter on Tuesday complained that the $600 direct payments included in the bill were too small, and called for them to be $2,000. 

Democrats, who have backed larger payments, are seeking to turn that against the GOP with a unanimous consent request on Thursday to agree to stand-alone legislation that would make the checks $2,000. 

During the call, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told members that he is willing to object to the unanimous consent vote and offer his own, on cuts to spending. 

“Members are venting. Kevin at the top went through what we can do — he can object and offer his own [unanimous consent motion],” one source on the call said. 

Republicans and the rest of Washington are in the dark on Trump’s plans. 

The president is set to travel to his Mar-a-Lago resort on Wednesday. If he does not sign the new legislation, the government would shut down on Dec. 29 without other action by Congress.

Another source on the call said “McCarthy said he talked to Trump and it’s not a sure thing what he’ll do” with the measure.

Trump could also veto the legislation or do nothing, which would result in a pocket veto. While he complained about the bill negotiated by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a video message posted Tuesday, Trump did not say he would veto it.

“Being a member of Congress sucks,” one GOP lawmaker said in response to the ambiguity over government funding.

Multiple sources said Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) told members he felt “Trump threw us under the bus” with his message, which surprised members of both parties.

One member suggested that Trump’s latest actions, between his comments on the spending package and decision to veto the NDAA, could backfire on him in garnering support for an attempt to challenge the Electoral College vote in Congress on Jan. 6. 

The lawmaker noted that some of the provisions Trump railed against were included in his own budget request.

“I’ve been with the president at about every turn, you know, tried to stand with him, tried to support him, and here he is now bitching about the stuff he asked us to put in the bill. It’s just not helpful when we’re being divided and here we are being divided by him,” the lawmaker told The Hill.

“The Defense bill, the veto, everything — I mean, if he wants us to all vote with him on the sixth you’d think he’d be trying to pull us together. It makes it harder for anybody that was maybe feeling charitable towards him – it pisses off anybody who cares about Defense, you know this stuff pisses off appropriators, it just makes it harder for us to come together and kumbaya to support him later,” the member added. 

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) called for members to go on TV to defend the COVID-19 relief-spending package. 

The call was abruptly cut short after roughly 25 minutes due to leaks to reporters, two sources on the call told The Hill.

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus have been vocal in their calls for the president to veto the legislation.

Updated 8:18 p.m. 

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Kevin McCarthy Steven Mnuchin stimulus checks Virginia Foxx

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