By Lucia Leal
Washington, Dec 23 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump, with less than a month left in office, has placed a triple challenge before his own Republican Party by vetoing the defense budget, threatening to block Congress’s recently crafted stimulus plan and pursuing a deluded attempt to prevent Congress from ratifying Joe Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 presidential vote.
Trump on Wednesday was getting ready for his last vacation as president with a trip to his private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, where he has his official residence and where he hopes to settle once Biden is inaugurated and moves into the White House on Jan. 20, 2021.
But the last thing Trump wants to do is to think about Biden’s inauguration or accept the fact that he himself must give up power, and although the majority of his advisors believe that he will leave the White House on that day on his own, the most volatile president in US history recently seems to be acting in a particularly out-of-control manner and hungering for attention.
The outgoing president seems to have decided to subject all members of his party to a personal loyalty test, especially Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who last week acknowledged Biden’s victory, something that appears to be anathema to Trump.
On Wednesday, Trump once again challenged Republicans by vetoing the $741 billion defense budget that had been approved by Congress, calling it a “gift” to China and Russia.
It is expected that lawmakers in Congress have enough votes to override his veto – and two-thirds of the legislators in both houses must sign on to be able to do so – but that will require a sizable number of Republicans to adopt a position against Trump’s stance on the matter.
The president’s veto comes a day after he threw another monkey wrench into the GOP china cabinet by posting a video on the social networks in which he threatened to block the $900 billion stimulus plan arduously put together by lawmakers to help alleviate the economic damage being caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, a package approved by Congress on Monday.
Trump called the $600 payments to millions of Americans “ridiculously low” and demanded that the figure be increased to $2,000 per person.
The president’s complaint was almost a direct attack on McConnell and his own Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, who had negotiated the $600 figure with Democrats.
Although McConnell kept silent after Trump’s outburst, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said she agreed with the president on the $2,000 figure and announced that on Thursday she intends to try and get the lower house of Congress – where Democrats hold the majority – to unanimously approve that higher figure.
“The entire country knows that it is urgent for the president to sign this bill, both to provide the coronavirus relief and to keep government open,” said Pelosi in a letter to other lawmakers.
Although it’s unlikely that the Democratic leader will be able to get the change approved unanimously, it would be even more difficult for the hike in the per-person payment to be agreed to by the Senate, where Republicans are in the majority.
It is not even clear whether the mercurial Trump would ultimately agree to such a change, since he also complained about other aspects of the stimulus plan.
Sources within the Trump administration and in Congress on Wednesday told the online daily Politico that nobody has a clear idea exactly what the president wanted lawmakers to modify in the bill, meaning that Washington is likely to remain in limbo while he goes on vacation.
The rescue plan is part of a broader federal spending package and if Trump doesn’t sign it before midnight on Monday, Dec. 28, this would mean that the federal government is left without operating funds and would enter into a partial shutdown starting on the 29th, a situation that last occurred two years ago.
And given the fact that on Jan. 3, 2021, a newly constituted Congress will be sworn in as a result of the Nov. 3 elections, if Trump has not signed or vetoed the stimulus plan by then, it will expire – since it was approved by the outgoing Congress – and a new one will have to be crafted and passed by the incoming legislators.
If Trump decides to veto the bill in the coming days, it is probable that Congress will be able to muster the two-thirds majority needed to override that veto, but it’s not clear whether the president will decide to veto it.
The chaos comes as Trump has been pursuing a bizarre plan to interfere in the last phase of the process to certify Biden as president-elect.
On Jan. 6, both chambers of Congress will meet to put the final stamp of approval on the result of the November election in a session headed by Vice President Mike Pence, who also serves as president of the Senate.