Donald Trump has succeeded in making himself the topic of conversation for market participants and likely for many American families in the remaining days before Christmas.
Trump’s last minute demand for larger stimulus checks was greeted enthusiastically by Democrats, and there was some talk that the gambit may be aimed at impacting the crucial runoffs in Georgia, where sparse polling shows Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock holding slight leads over David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, the latter of whom continues to run what it’s probably fair to call a racially charged, smear campaign in a bid to demonize Warnock.
“President Trump is, as ever, erratic and all over the place but on this point, he’s right,” Ossoff said late Tuesday. “$600 is a joke. They should send $2,000 checks right now to the American people who are hurting,” he added, noting that Perdue “opposed even the first round of $1,200 checks.”
Read more: Trump Goes Rogue, ‘Thank You Very Much’
Ossoff went on to hit Perdue for stock trading. “Imagine a sitting US senator who was profiting from the pandemic buying medical and vaccine stocks, opposing even the first single round of checks.”
Warnock was even more direct. “Billionaire Kelly Loeffler thinks $600 will cover your rent, groceries, and hospital bills,” he said, commenting on Trump’s video.
The amendment was already drafted — by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, two lawmakers with whom Trump has famously clashed.
“Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks,” Nancy Pelosi said. “At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 – Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!”
It’s not clear whether this is good news for Republicans. Again, it would be naive to suggest that Trump didn’t at least run this by Mitch McConnell and it’s entirely possible that he (Trump) is aiming at the Georgia runoffs. At the same time, it’s also conceivable Trump was just going it alone.
“I’m in. Whaddya say, Mitch?,” Chuck Schumer quipped, tweeting out a picture of the amendment originally posted by Ocasio-Cortez. “Let’s not get bogged down with ideological offsets and unrelated items and just DO THIS!,” Schumer exclaimed.
According to Maggie Haberman, “the president wanted to issue such a statement before the deal had been reached but was dissuaded by aides.” That would suggest Steve Mnuchin knew Trump wanted more for direct payments. “It’s a reminder that getting him not to say something is usually just delaying, not deferring,” Haberman added.
Some Republicans will probably support the move, or at least be willing to meet Trump and Democrats in the middle. Relief checks weren’t the main stumbling block at any juncture over the past five months, or at least not that I’m aware of.
Still, this is a gamble. And not just politically. If the GOP stonewalls Trump, a lame duck, and chafes at Democratic gloating on social media, it could mean provisions like a moratorium on evictions and extra unemployment benefits lapse next week.
It’s worth reiterating, however simple an observation this might be, that if there’s no agreement, there won’t be any checks. Not $2,000 and not $600 either.
“If his major concern is he wants $2,000 relief checks, I’m sure we can accommodate his desires,” Democrat Jamie Raskin remarked, in comments cited by The New York Times. “On the Democratic side, we have been pushing for a much larger package for months.”
Commenting on the prospect of Trump vetoing the legislation after effectively sidelining himself for the duration of the talks in order to focus on a moon shot effort to overturn the election, Raskin said it would be a “ludicrous way to run government, but it’s a fitting end to his presidency.”