According to multiple reports, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) plan to offer competing “unanimous consent” resolutions to amend the coronavirus relief package in response to the veto threat issued by President Donald Trump earlier this week. Neither resolution is expected to pass, with the result being an apparent stalemate over the fate of the bill. Because the bill also functions as an Omnibus spending measure that was designed to avert a government shutdown, the possibility of a Trump veto means that the government could shut down the week after Christmas.
The wrangling began Tuesday when Trump issued a stern rebuke to Congress about the bill, which has been widely lampooned on both the left and the right for failing to give enough direct relief to Americans affected by the pandemic and its associated business shutdowns, and for giving too much to special interests, particularly in foreign countries. In his video message, Trump specifically hammered home those two points, criticizing Congress for not sending at least $2,000 per person in direct relief, and also for including millions of dollars in foreign aid in the bill.
Democrats, led by Pelosi, have announced plans to introduce a unanimous consent bill that would leave the rest of the bill unchanged, but increase the size of payouts to American families to the $2,000 figure requested by Trump.
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!
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) December 23, 2020
“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!”
According to Fox News, McCarthy was not impressed with this gambit, and multiple Republicans plan to object, which would defeat the unanimous consent resolution.
In a tweet, McCarthy accused the Democrats of having “selective hearing” when it came to Trump’s remarks, accusing them of ignoring Trump’s call to pay for the increased payouts by reducing or eliminating the foreign aid in the bill, and released a full letter to his House colleagues about Republicans’ plans:
Democrats appear to be suffering from selective hearing. They've conveniently ignored @realDonaldTrump's call to reexamine tax dollars wasted overseas while so many Americans are struggling at home.
Republicans will act to put America first.
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) December 24, 2020
According to McCarthy’s letter, Democrats “have conveniently ignored the concerns expressed by the President, and shared by our constituents, that we ought to reexamine how our tax dollars are spent overseas while so many of our neighbors at home are struggling to make ends meet. Thus, Republicans will offer a unanimous consent request to revisit the State and Foreign Operations title of the Omnibus so that we can full address the concerns at hand.”
Fox reports that Democrats plan to object to this resolution, which means that the House will be right back where it started. And of course, even if the House did act on either of those unanimous consent resolutions, the amended legislation would then have to be re-passed by the Senate, where its fate would be similarly uncertain.
Reading between the lines, Democrats appear to be betting that Trump will not make good on his veto threat, which would raise the specter of a government shutdown the week after Christmas. Currently, the federal government is operating on a one week continuing resolution that is set to expire early next week, if a longer-term funding measure is not passed. In addition to the potential for a government shutdown, a number of other COVID-related benefits are scheduled to expire immediately, including expanded unemployment benefits, which will expire the day after Christmas if a funding package that extends them is not passed.