Trump Backs Down, Signs Relief Bill

His tantrum stopped checks over the weekend but Congress called his bluff.

NPR (“Trump Signs COVID-19 Relief Deal After His Criticism Threatened To Derail It“):

President Trump on Sunday night signed a massive coronavirus relief and spending package, relenting on a measure he had called a “disgrace” days earlier.

The legislation, which combines $900 billion in COVID-19 aid with government funding through September 2021, was passed by large majorities in both houses of Congress on Dec. 21 — only to see Trump blindside legislators the next day and blast the bill.

In a statement Sunday night, Trump said lawmakers will pursue some of his sought-after changes.

His signature avoids a partial government shutdown, as spending was set to run out Tuesday, and it puts an end to days of uncertainty over when millions of Americans will receive the desperately needed economic relief provided by the bill.

POLITICO Playbook (“Trump got nothing“):

THAT’S IT? President DONALD TRUMP made all this noise about the Covid relief and government funding bill only to sign it and get nothing in return?

TRUMP got taken to the cleaners.

WHAT A BIZARRE, embarrassing episode for the president. He opposed a bill his administration negotiated. He had no discernible strategy and no hand to play — and it showed. He folded, and got nothing besides a few days of attention and chaos. People waiting for aid got a few days of frightening uncertainty.

ZIP. ZERO. ZILCH. If he was going to give up this easy, he should’ve just kept quiet and signed the bill. It would’ve been less embarrassing.

IN A STATEMENT, TRUMP saidCongress will reviewSection 230, the statute governing social media companies? Pretty sure they’ve been reviewing it for a while. A “redlined” bill? Huh? He’ll never get the spending rescissions he’s asking for — like, zero chance, so don’t focus on this. They will review voter fraud? Sure thing, boss. And the Senate will begin the process of voting on $2,000 checks? Great. He will split the Republican Party on the way out the door. (Will it get 60 votes? Will senators even show up for this?) In his Sunday evening statement, Senate Majority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL didn’t even mention anything that TRUMP got in return for signing this bill.

THIS IS PROBABLY THE MOST FITTING coda to TRUMP’S presidency, and a neat encapsulation of his relationship with Congress. He never cared to understand the place and was disengaged from its work.

THEY’LL BE LAUGHING — er, scratching their heads — at your genius about this one for a while, Mr. President.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. JohnMcC says:

    The WaPo has this paragraph in it’s story about this: “…Trump released a long list of false claims and grievances. He said he would be signing a ‘redlined version’ of the bill back to congress ‘insisting that those funds be removed from the bill.'”

    After 4 years in office, he still would fail the final exam at Schoolhouse Rock.

  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    He did get something, several days where he was the center of attention, kind of like a 3 year old laying in the middle of a department store aisle having a tantrum because mom won’t by a toy. But it was attention at a time when the country had begun tuning him out.

    Only 23 days to go.

  3. CSK says:

    He has more important things in mind, such as his Georgia rally (“big and wonderful!”) on Jan. 4 and the “yuge” MAGA rally in D.C. on January 6.

  4. Paine says:

    You’d think the greatest dealmaker in the universe who constantly criticized Obama for his inability to get R’s and D’s to the table to hammer out a winning deal for the American people would be a lot better at getting R’s and D’s to the table to hammer out a winning deal for the American people.

  5. @Paine:

    the greatest dealmaker in the universe

    The art of the deal, indeed.

  6. Jen says:

    The statement from the White House is a thing to behold.

    – He, personally, takes credit for the vaccine.

    – Once again refers to the “China virus.”

    – Blames small business closures as caused by the actions of “Democrat-run states.”

    – And then demands that Congress change spending.

    I cannot wait until he’s a distant memory.

  7. Kathy says:


    He, personally, takes credit for the vaccine

    This is not even worth refuting.

    But, while the guaranteed orders and financial aid undoubtedly helped, the thing is the mRNA technology for vaccines has been developed over the last ten years. Add the prerequisite knowledge of genetics and means to engineer genetic material, and it’s been decades of development.

    The design of the vaccine itself took, according to various sources, only a couple of days, once the genome for SARS-CoV-2 was published (by Chinese scientists*). The rest is testing (pre-clinical, clinical, and phases 1 through 3), which takes time, and setting up to manufacture the vaccines. remember, prior to Moderna’s and BioNTech’s vaccines, no mRNA shots had ever been used in humans.

    Lastly it’s worth noting BioNTech is a German company, set up by descendants of Turkish immigrants.

  8. Michael Cain says:

    Impoundment Control Act of 1974. The President may make a formal rescission request asking Congress to change an appropriation. After making the request, the President may impound the funds for 45 days or until Congress acts, whichever is sooner. From FY1974 through FY2008, Presidents made more than 1,100 rescission requests.

    Granted, “redlining” is a horrible description of the process, but one that’s probably familiar to Trump.

  9. Kathy says:

    @Michael Cain:

    Thanks. I wans’t aware of this.

    However, from Trump’s Twit, he seems to think he can just eliminate what he doesn’t like as though he could wield a line-item veto.

  10. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Is there a single good deal that Trump has managed to make in his four years?
    The closest thing to a success is the USMCA…which is actually little more than Nafta and the TPP combined into one agreement.
    Some diplomatic agreements between a few peaceful ME nations and Israel.
    What else? Anyone?

  11. sam says:

    @Michael Cain:

    After making the request, the President may impound the funds for 45 days

    Joe Biden will be president in 23 days. Would Der Komenüver’s impoundment still be valid then? I’d think not. But…

  12. grumpy realist says:

    What’s amazing is not President Trump’s essential brattiness, but that so many people support him and consider this professional behaviour. I suspect that a high percentage of them use similar tactics in their own lives–which must have its effect on their own employment opportunities.

    No one wants to hire a brat.

  13. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: But I don’t think he wants to eliminate them; he only wants to complain about them. Additionally, when they don’t get eliminated, it’s the fault of those who ignored his “redlining.” As Dr. Taylor noted in the earlier post, it’s the equivalent of the sharpie drawing on the weather map.

  14. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: “The closest thing to a success is the USMCA…which is actually little more than Nafta and the TPP combined into one agreement without the “Trans Pacific” and “Partnership” parts. FTFY. 🙂

  15. KM says:

    @grumpy realist :
    We’re a nation of asshats who are extremely proud of our asshattery. We call it “rugged individualism” or “liberty” or even “stubborness” when it’ just plain old douchbaggery. Of course they see this as professional behavior – he’s doing what he wants following his principles and not letting people tell him what to do, even if it’s just basic decency and norms. He’s screwing over his enemies and “showing dominance” which is what they thinking business is all about. What’s the point of power and money if you can’t use it to get what you want and hurt the people you hate? Professional to them only means work time stuff as opposed free-time stuff so of course they don’t have a separate set of standards for how one should act in the workplace.

  16. JohnSF says:

    And AstraZeneca/Oxford is British and Swedish (with researchers who beside UK and Swedish)
    Modern medical science is trans-national cooperative endeavour.
    And the UK and EU, and virtually everyone else, were channeling a tidal wave of money toward COVID research.

  17. Michael Cain says:


    Joe Biden will be president in 23 days. Would Der Komenüver’s impoundment still be valid then? I’d think not. But…

    In fact, I think the usual 45 day period ends early if Congress adjourns. This is all a moot point, at least this time. Neither the current House, nor the House after Jan 3, is going to approve the rescission.

  18. Michael Cain says:


    However, from Trump’s Twit, he seems to think he can just eliminate what he doesn’t like as though he could wield a line-item veto.

    This is certainly not the first time the Donald has demonstrated that he doesn’t know how the federal government actually works. Starting from his first day, when he seemed to believe that he could simply dictate laws on his own.

    I cheerfully admit that the three sessions I spent on my state’s legislative budget staff taught me a lot about how the government actually worked, and that it was different than what was taught in my public policy MA classes, which in turn was quite different than what they taught in eighth-grade civics class.

  19. Teve says:


    We’re a nation of asshats

    you may be an asshat, I don’t know, but you can leave me out of that group thank you very much.

  20. Michael Cain says:

    And in line with the OP, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when it was announced that Trump had signed the bill. He would have caused enormously more pain if he had simply sat on it and let it die when Congress adjourned Jan 3.

  21. Teve says:

    @Michael Cain: i was quite worried. I left my job in September and that $600 gives me a little easier next two months.

  22. JohnSF says:

    Edit fail; should read: “…with researchers who beside UK and Swedish include scientist from half the countries on Earth”

    PS: a funny thought has just occurred to my gin sozzled brain, which I really should have noted years ago, there is no proper collective noun for citizens of the UK.
    (UKish? UKanian?)
    Because British excludes those Northern Irish who regard themselves as Irish, not British.
    (And let’s not start on the Manx or the Channel Islanders).

  23. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:
    Trump is something much worse than a brat. He’s a malevolent, vindictive churl.

  24. Joe says:


    (UKish? UKanian?)

    UKids! So the reciprocal to “damn Americans!” can be “damn UKids!”

  25. JohnSF says:

    “Get off my lawn!”
    “Your lawn is now a protectorate of the Empire…”

  26. JohnMcC says:

    @JohnSF: I would have thought that “citizen” is probably only fairly recently used for Britons. Isn’t the ‘proper’ term ‘subject’? And ‘United Kingdom’ sort of a euphemism for ‘English Empire’?

    Brief pause to reflect on ‘two nations divided by a common language’.

  27. gVOR08 says:

    Via LGM Fintan O’Toole has a pretty good handle on Trump.

    There is no fun in getting your minions to agree that black is black. The sadist’s pleasure lies in getting them to attest that black is white. The “alternative facts” that Trump’s enabler Kellyanne Conway laid down at the very beginning of his administration are not just about permission to lie. They’re about the erotic gratification of making other people lie absurdly, foolishly, repeatedly.

    The power of his instinct was that he knew how to tap into a hatred of government that has been barely below the surface of American culture since before the foundation of the US.

  28. JohnSF says:

    Citizen or subject are acceptable, to me at any rate.
    But a lot of nationalists, and liberals, hate the term “subject”.

    Also since legal changes of IIRC 1983 subject became technically used mainly for some ex-imperial subjects, largely those who were excluded from citizenship of their new countries of residence.

    I think the main groups were Indians in Africa and Polynesia, some Hong Kong residents.
    Plus there are the people of the UK territories who may fall in this category; not sure to be honest. .ie. Gibraltar, Man, Guernsey, Jersey, Falklands, Bermuda, Anguilla, Virgin Islands, Caymans, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St Helena, Ascencion, Tristan de Cunha, some puzzled penguins in the British Antarctic, and the British Indian Ocean Territory, including Diego Garcia (that’s right, you guys are tenants) with its motto “In tutela nostra Limuria” = “Lemuria is in our charge”. 🙂

  29. JohnSF says:


    Isn’t … ‘United Kingdom’ sort of a euphemism for ‘English Empire’?

    Now there’s the question; a lot of Scots, Welsh and Irish nationalists would wholeheartedly agree.
    I’d argue it was not so much as some think; after all, among fairly recent prime ministers the following were Scots (or Scots-ish LOL):
    William Ewart Gladstone (born in England but Scottish parents, represented a Scottish constituency Midlothian for his final three terms in office)
    Arthur Balfour
    Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman
    Bonar Law (born in Canada to Scottish parents)
    Ramsay MacDonald
    Tony Blair
    Gordon Brown
    Oh, and David Lloyd-George for the Welsh.

    The Empire was in many ways THE joint Anglo-Scots project; you could easily fill a series of books just with short biographies of prominent Scottish, Welsh and Irish imperial generals, admirals, administrators, merchants, industrialists, scientists, explorers etc.

    The massive current problem for the UK has been the transformation of the post-Thatcher Conservative and Unionist Party into, increasingly, an English Nationalist Party, who have repeatedly ignored the constitutional and political standing of the other nations of the UK in pursuit of their petty populism.

  30. ImProPer says:

    If Trump’s antics wind up doing what human suffering and common sense has failed to do, get Republicans to enact more demand side economic policies, I won’t look the gift horse in the mouth.

  31. Gustopher says:

    @gVOR08: The not very good movie Sin City sums it up pretty well:

    Power don’t come from a badge or a gun. Power comes from lying. Lying big and gettin’ the whole damn world to play along with you. Once you’ve got everybody agreeing with what they know in their hearts ain’t true, you’ve got ’em by the balls.

    To be fair to the movie, it isn’t awful, and it’s a really pretty faithful yet interesting adaptation of the comic book. It was just a piece of its time.