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BRENDA BLAGG: Who'll be the grinch?

Trump relents on covid relief, shifts burden to Senate by Brenda Blagg | December 30, 2020 at 3:00 a.m.

President Donald Trump may have briefly come to his senses.

He finally signed the critical $900 billion pandemic relief package rather than add insult to injury for millions of struggling Americans.

By stalling as long as he did, the president had already allowed unemployment benefits to lapse for 14 million Americans.

Had he not signed the bill, he would have denied $600 stimulus checks to millions more individuals as well as rental assistance, extended eviction moratoriums, economic relief for small business and more -- a lot more.

The federal government would have had to shut down this week because the $1.4 trillion needed to continue operations was tied to the stimulus package.

Hundreds of thousands of federal employees would have been sent home without pay. Even "essential" workers, including the military, would not have been paid. Much of the government would have unnecessarily shut down in the midst of this disastrous pandemic.

The chaotic situation was brought on when Trump balked at signing the legislation.

Trump finally relented on Sunday evening and signed what members of Congress had belatedly sent to the president's desk after they supposedly worked out the details with his White House.

By signing, he showed a glimpse of responsibility amid the chaos he had created. Still, he couldn't help clouding this attempt at rectifying the situation with more false claims of election fraud.

The stimulus package, which had been wrangled by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, passed overwhelmingly last week with Senate and House members believing Trump supported it, too.

Then came Trump's surprise video demanding changes, including action to raise the $600 stimulus checks to $2,000 per person.

Promise of that extra money was apparently intended to transform Trump, perceived as a Christmas grinch for having blocked this new package, into the hero he claims he is for the American people.

The president also demanded other spending cuts, but there has been little indication he'll get them. The bill has already been signed and Trump's presidency will end in less than a month.

The $2,000 in direct aid to individuals has, however, caught the attention of congressional Democrats, if not Republicans.

Many Democrats had wanted more money in the stimulus checks to begin with, but Republicans rejected higher spending throughout negotiations.

House Democrats' response on Monday was to pass another bill to put that extra money in the pipeline for individuals, forcing Republican colleagues to get on board or accept the grinch role Trump is trying to shed.

In the end, 44 Republicans voted with the majority of Democrats to secure the needed two-thirds House vote.

House passage of the Trump-endorsed $2,000 individual payments has now shifted the grinch onus to the Republican-led Senate.

Trump claims to have exacted a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to let the Senate vote on such a measure. As of this writing, McConnell hasn't said exactly what he will do.

It's up to Trump to use what remains of his presidency to bring McConnell and enough more Republicans around to get that extra relief to Americans, rather than keep pouting about an election loss he can't reverse.

Brenda Blagg is a freelance columnist and longtime journalist in Northwest Arkansas. Email her at [email protected]

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