Trump heads off for golf on Christmas morning with Lindsey Graham

a man wearing a suit and tie: MailOnline logo

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President Donald Trump headed to his West Palm Beach golf club on Christmas morning as he continued to complain that the massive spending and COVID-19 stimulus bill Congress passed contained too much ‘pork.’  

He was spotted in his motorcade with top Congressional ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican.  

The bill was flown to Palm Beach, where Trump is spending this final Christmas in office at his Mar-a-Lago resort, and has arrived in Florida, a person familiar with the situation told 

Politico’s Playbook reported Friday on Trump’s gripes and how lawmakers have no idea whether the president will sign the bill, veto it or do nothing – which would prompt a government shutdown at midnight Monday. 

Republican sources told Axios that they expected Trump to sign the bill in the ‘nick of time,’ as reporter Mike Allen put it. 

Additionally, 14 million Americans are slated to lose unemployment aid on Saturday. 

‘The best way out of this is for the president to sign the bill. I still hope that that’s what he decides to do,’ Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, told the Politico newsletter Thursday.

The president hasn’t talked to reporters since arriving in Florida. 

He went golfing on Christmas Eve and now Christmas Day and shared Christmas messages on his social media accounts. 

White House spokesmen Judd Deere said the president had been briefed on the Friday morning explosion in Nashville, Tennessee. 

‘President Trump has been briefed on the explosion in Nashville, Tennessee, and will continue to receive regular updates,’ Deere said. ‘The President is grateful for the incredible first responders and praying for those who were injured.’ 

Trump shocked Washington when, on Tuesday, he announced that he had problems with the giant package, which contains both government funding and COVID-19 relief. 

Until then, the president had sat out of negotiations for months.  

He asked Congress to send him a bill that gave Americans $2,000 checks – not the $600 that was negotiated – and he railed against items like foreign aid. 

On Thursday, during a Christmas Eve session, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to appease Trump with a stand-alone measure that would bump the checks up to $2,000, but members of his own party wouldn’t sign on.   

After the measure was killed, the House formally enrolled the mammoth 5,593-page bill to provide relief and keep the government from shutting down.  

‘The bipartisan COVID relief & omnibus bill has been enrolled. The House & Senate are now sending this important legislation #ForThePeople to the White House for the President’s signature. We urge him to sign this bill into law to give immediate relief to hard-working families!’ wrote Pelosi. 

Kevin McCarthy wearing a suit and tie: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy railed against 'billions in foreign aid' in a spending bill he helped negotiate, parroting what Trump had said in the president's Tuesday night video

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy railed against ‘billions in foreign aid’ in a spending bill he helped negotiate, parroting what Trump had said in the president’s Tuesday night video

With the legislation in Trump’s hands, the president can either sign it, veto it, or wait – but the government runs out of funding Monday night. 

The bid in the House to rush relief to millions of Americans amid the pandemic all came down in a few minutes of floor action Thursday morning, after House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland tried to offer Pelosi’s proposal on the floor.

It could have sailed to immediate approval in the House had Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California agreed to it.

But Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, who was sitting in the chair for the brief pro forma session of the House, instructed him that it wouldn’t past muster, since she ‘is constrained not to entertain the request’ by House rules – with most members already at home in their districts for the holidays, some having already received new coronavirus vaccine shots in their arms.

The only way to get around it would be for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to agree. 

McCarthy had already telegraphed that he wouldn’t allow that to happen – after Trump through a wrench into the heavily negotiated bill by demanding larger checks and blasting spending on foreign aid his administration had previously proposed.

To drive home the point of who was stopping the proposed change to the deal and holding up the checks, Hoyer made a ‘parliamentary inquiry’ – which prompted Dingell to say that only when ‘the minority leader’ has no objection could he make such a move.

Republicans tried instead to make their own move and alter a $1.4 billion spending bill to comport with Trump’s post hoc demands for changes – but that, too wasn’t allowed.

‘Merry Christmas!’ Dingell intoned as she gaveled down the session – a rare Christmas eve meeting that hasn’t occurred in years.  

McCarthy wasn’t there for the brief action. 

He posted a picture on Instagram of himself seemingly at home in front of a Christmas tree with his two dogs, with his arm in a bandage. 

‘Verified I had surgery on my elbow yesterday. Luckily, Teddy and Cash are here to help,’ he wrote on Instagram.

Virginia Republican Rep. Rob Wittman appeared in his stead. 

Democrats will try again on Monday when the House meets, this time introducing a bill that includes the boosted $2,000 checks – the same day government funding is set to run out.

McCarthy fell in line behind President Trump and savaged a COVID relief bill he helped negotiate after the president stunned lawmakers by lambasting it in a video the president posted on social media. 

Congressional leaders combined the $900 billion relief bill with a spending bill to keep the government running, only to see Trump trash it as wasteful spending after it cleared both chambers by wide margins. 

‘Americans have needed relief from the coronavirus and lockdowns for months. House Republicans have attempted to pass relief over forty times but each time, Speaker Pelosi has ignored our fellow citizens, saying ‘nothing is better than something,’ he wrote lawmakers in a ‘Dear Colleague letter.

‘Worse than that, by waiting days before Christmas, Speaker Pelosi tried to use the American people as leverage to make coronavirus relief contingent on government funding – which includes billions of foreign aid at a time when there are urgent needs at home. Our government’s top priority must be our families, communities, and small businesses as we get through this pandemic and restore our country,’ he wrote.

The public wants the bill passed, with 86 per cent of voters for it, according to a CBS/YouGov poll. 

Trump in his own remarks ripped several foreign aid programs providing funds to Central America, Pakistan and other nations. It was immediately revealed that his own budget had proposed funding amounts that were in fact higher than the totals included in the continuing resolution spending bill he had blasted. 

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday aim to win quick passage of legislation providing $2,000 in direct payments to Americans as part of a coronavirus economic relief initiative after President Donald Trump unexpectedly insisted on the provision.

McCarthy is expected to object and offer his own proposal, which will offset spending on state and foreign operations – but also likely doom the proposal from advancing.

The stakes in this long-shot bid are enormous, as millions of Americans desperately await some sort of new assistance from Washington in a COVID-19 pandemic that is spiraling out of control in the United States and other nations.

Late on Monday, Congress overwhelmingly approved an $892 billion emergency coronavirus aid bill that contains a one-time, $600 payment to individuals to help them cope with a U.S. economy hobbled by the pandemic.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who negotiated on behalf of the White House, had said the $600 checks could make it to Americans by next week.  

The aid was attached to $1.4 trillion in funding to keep the federal government operating through this fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, 2021.

It is unclear how Trump plans to respond. He vetoed a massive defense bill this week despite potential political blowback for denying a pay raise to troops as well as billions for weapons programs.

‘McCarthy said he talked to Trump and it’s not a sure thing what he’ll do,’ a source who was on a Wednesday conference call among House Republicans told The Hill.  

But defying expectations, Trump on Tuesday hinted he might veto the gigantic legislation if the direct payments were not increased to $2,000 per person and if a slew of unrelated government spending projects, including foreign aid, were not jettisoned.

Trump, who was awaiting receipt of the $2.3 trillion bill from Congress, did not explicitly say he would veto the bill in its current form.

But with his warning, he put the coronavirus aid in limbo as well as the ability of the federal government to operate normally beyond next Monday, when existing money runs out.

In a challenge to congressional Republicans who labored to keep the cost of the coronavirus aid bill below $1 trillion, Democrats joyfully embraced Trump’s demand for bigger stimulus checks for Americans.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted: ‘Mr. President, sign the bill to keep government open! Urge McConnell and McCarthy to agree with the Democratic unanimous consent request for $2,000 direct payments! This can be done by noon on Christmas Eve!’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the top two Republicans in Congress, and their aides have been silent on Trump’s demand for bigger checks.

But McCarthy, in a letter late on Wednesday to his fellow Republicans, described a counter-move his party planned to make on Thursday that would seek changes to the foreign aid component of the spending bill.

Each side might end up blocking the other’s proposal in a stand-off that would leave the bill that passed on Monday unchanged.

Employing a procedural maneuver rarely used for major legislation, Democrats early on Thursday were expected to try to ram the $2,000 payment initiative through the House in lightning speed with a unanimous vote. 

But to prevail, all House members of the 435-seat chamber would have to go along by not objecting to the maneuver.

If the Democrats’ gambit fails, it would be up to Trump to either sign the combined $2.3 trillion in coronavirus aid and government funding into law, or veto it.

Congressional backers might have the votes to override a veto. 

If not, Congress and the White House would be in a potentially chaotic showdown just weeks before Trump is replaced by President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, on Jan. 20.

In order to avoid a government shutdown, Congress could keep operations running by passing a fourth stopgap funding bill before midnight Monday. 

For that option to work, lawmakers would need Trump’s cooperation at a time when he is still consumed by his loss to Biden in the Nov. 3 presidential election.

The stopgap bill would not include coronavirus aid, however.

In another showdown with Trump, Congress wants to override his veto on Wednesday of a bill authorizing U.S. military programs. 

The House aims to vote on Monday and the Senate could follow up as early as Tuesday.

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