Donald Trump was apparently cajoled, pushed, and dragged kicking and screaming into signing the COVID-19 relief omnibus bill on Sunday. Axios's Mike Allen:
Getting a cranky, stubborn President Trump to belatedly sign the COVID relief bill, after unemployment benefits had already lapsed, was like being a hostage negotiator, or defusing a bomb.
Driving the news: The deal was closed on a Sunday afternoon phone call with Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. "This is good," Trump finally said, an official familiar with the call told me. "I should sign this."
How it happened: Over many days, Mnuchin and McCarthy — aided by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who golfed with Trump in West Palm Beach on Friday — indulged the president's rants, told him there was great stuff in the bill, and gave him "wins" he could announce, even though they didn't change the bill.
Playing to his vanity, they invoked his legacy, and reminded him he didn't want to hurt people.They convinced the author of "The Art of the Deal" that he had shown himself to be a fighter, and that he had gotten all there was to get.
Trump's sweeteners, from his 8:15 p.m. statement: "[T]he House and Senate have agreed to focus strongly on the very substantial voter fraud which took place in the November 3 Presidential election."
"The Senate will start the process for a vote that increases checks to $2,000, repeals Section 230, and starts an investigation into voter fraud. Big Tech must not get protections of Section 230! Voter Fraud must be fixed! Much more money is coming. I will never give up my fight for the American people!"
Reality check ... Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who worked hard to understand Trump, told me: "It may be too late. Too late for him, too late for the economy, too late for Covid, and too late for the Georgia senators."
The most delusional thing about the signing was Trump's usage of rescission statements in the budget bill, basically a 45-day line item hold on anything he doesn't want to spend money on. Congress is free to ignore it once the 45 days are up. The Impoundment Control Act of 1974 gave presidents this power generally, Reagan, Bush Senior, and Clinton all used it to hold over funds from previous years that expired anyway, Trump himself used it in 2018 to go after 2017 CHIP funds.
Trump however also signaled that he wants a long-term policy fight over "election fraud", Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and line-item veto power (which was struck down by SCOTUS 6-3 as unconstitutional in 1998.)
Here's the thing though. Trump is leaving office in three weeks, so all of this seems like cardboard castles being built to calm the tantrum baby down for a while. He's acting like somebody who will be continuing these fights into 2021 however.
So what did Republicans promise him for signing this, and will they follow through?