Trump can't let go of his quest for revenge against Republicans who he believes betrayed him, even if it means blowing up the stimulus bill
On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump threw into doubt the future of the $900 billion stimulus bill that was painstakingly negotiated by Congress and passed on Monday.
Trump said he believed the bill was wasteful and that sending $600 checks to ordinary Americans was not enough, saying the amount should be $2,000.
But some Republicans saw another motive. CNN cited an anonymous GOP official saying Trump was throwing a "tantrum" over the bill to punish Republicans who didn't back his bid to overturn the election.
The bill has enough bipartisan support to override a potential Trump veto and pass in its current form. Alternatively, lawmakers could agree to a new bill including the $2,000 checks demanded by Trump.
Trump's intervention means that Americans might not be receiving their direct payment checks next week, as many had expected.
Related: Trump’s demand puts Mitch McConnell’s in a dilemma
President Donald Trump claims to oppose the $900 COVID-19 stimulus bill because it's wasteful, and the direct payment checks to ordinary Americans aren't large enough.
But there may be another reason far closer to Trump's heart that underlies the attack - a desire for revenge against a Republican Party that he feels has betrayed him in his impossible bid to overturn the result of the presidential election.
The president's attack on the bill - made via a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday - has opened up a rift between congressional Republicans and the White House, with House Republicans on Thursday blocking a Democratic move to incorporate the $2,000 checks demanded by Trump.
"The Trump tantrum has nothing to do with check size or spending - he was fully aware of the negotiations carried out in his behalf by [chief of staff Mark] Meadows and [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin and never said peep," an unnamed GOP official told CNN's Jake Tapper, after Trump attacked the bill.
"When it comes to venting rage and seeking revenge vs. millions losing unemployment the day after Christmas and millions losing apartments and millions of small businesses going under, there is no contest: his ego always comes first."
Politico's Playbook PM newsletter also reported on Wednesday speculation among people close to Trump, as well as lawmakers, that "this entire tantrum is because Republicans are abandoning him on the Electoral College vote and acknowledging that his presidency is over."
According to The Washington Post, the White House was fielding furious calls from Republicans on Wednesday, as Trump left to spend the Christmas holidays in his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
They wanted to know why administration officials told them that the president supported the bill and asked them to vote for it, only to be abandoned, The Post said.
Trump took scant interest in the stimulus bill while it was being negotiated, as he pursued his bogus voter-fraud claims. Top administration officials told Republican lawmakers during the negotiations that the president backed the position of the GOP's congressional leadership, and encouraged them to vote for the bill.
Trump's Tuesday video, where he threatened to blow up the bill, took Republicans by surprise.
According to The Post, Trump has been complaining that McConnell hasn't been doing enough to help him in his bid to overturn the election. McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy were blindsided by Trump's Tuesday night video, according to the report.
It's not the first time this week Trump has taken action seemingly designed to damage Republican leadership, with the president savaging Sen. Mitch McConnell in an email to Republicans on Monday after the Senate majority leader acknowledged Biden's status as president-elect last week.
An advisor to the president told Axios that Trump is desperate to cling onto attention as Biden's inauguration draws closer, and is seeking to retain his hold over the GOP after he loses power by punishing Republicans he deems disloyal.
Earlier this week Axios also reported that Trump was getting angry with top officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who he thinks isn't fighting hard enough to support his voter-fraud claims.
Republican credibility on stimulus measures is not the only issue at stake for the party following the president's shock attack, with the party facing crucial elections for control of the Senate in the Georgia runoff elections on January 5.
The failure of the congressional GOP and White House to work together to push through a bill could damage the party's candidates, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.
Read more: EXCLUSIVE: A deputy to Eric Trump helped his family build a campaign shell company to protect the president from grift. But the secretive operation morphed into a mystery - even for top Trump campaign staffers.
What now for the stimulus bill?
The future of the stimulus bill is unclear.
If the bill does not pass, millions of unemployed Americans will lose federal unemployment assistance on December 26, while a moratorium on evictions included in the bill will not come into effect, rendering many people homeless.
If Congress decides to negotiate Trump's demands for the $2,000 stimulus checks - as top Democrats and progressive lawmakers have suggested - it could take days to negotiate and approve them.
Some Republicans who for weeks opposed higher direct payments are now faced with the uncomfortable prospect of voting against their president if a Democrat-sponsored bill incorporating the demand makes it to the Senate floor.
Trump has ten days to decide whether to sign the stimulus package into law or veto it by sending it back to Congress unsigned.
Trump has not said whether he intends to veto the stimulus package, but he has the power to do so. If he takes this step, the whole process could be pushed back for weeks.
If he delays making a decision, it could also have the same effect as a veto: as Fox News' Chad Pergram tweeted, a presidential veto automatically comes into effect after the January 3 end of the congressional session if Trump doesn't make a decision.
Congress could still override a potential Trump veto, as the stimulus bill had enough votes in the House and Senate on Monday night to surpass the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto.
However, if and when lawmakers have to vote to override a veto, many Republicans would face the damaging position of defying their own president, and the unity and credibility of the GOP will likely be damaged.
Another key concern is the December 28 deadline when stopgap government funding - which was passed to allow the stimulus bill to be negotiated - will expire.
It means that large sections of the US government could begin to close as the coronavirus pandemic tears through the country and economic recovery falters.
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