Saturday, March 28, 2020

Trump signs 2 trillion dollar CARES act but guts the oversight provisions

Heather Cox Richardson (March 27, Letters from an American) has some interesting observations on how the 2 trillion bill got passed - and what Trump did to f*ck it up.

Today the House of Representatives passed the Senate’s massive coronavirus relief and stimulus bill, the CARES Act. This $2.2 trillion bill is an attempt to address the massive economic dislocation caused by the pandemic now convulsing America. Lots of people have written to me to ask about all the “pork” that Democrats demanded in this bill and how they were playing with Americans’ lives for their own interests. This, once again, is Republican messaging, not reality.

I’ll just dive into the middle of the process.

Discussions hit a stalemate over a number of things, but primarily over the provision for a $500 billion fund to be used by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to shore up businesses (whose applications to that fund would be secret for six months) with little oversight. This was a nonstarter for Democrats, who pointed out the money could be funneled to Trump’s financial supporters, or even to Trump himself (it did not help that the president refused to pledge that he would not accept bailout money).

… [In the end] the Democrats got their primary concern taken care of in the Senate bill: it would have oversight of the $500 billion fund for businesses. An independent inspector general and an oversight board would oversee the dispersal of funds.

They also got a number of other items in the bill, making it look in many ways like a normal appropriations bill, with both parties getting appropriations for things they prioritize. … The idea that this was some sort of Democratic coup is belied by the fact that this was a bill written without Democratic input in the first place. It is also belied by the fact the bill passed the Senate by a bipartisan vote of 96–0.

Then it went to the House. Since the House had disbanded on March 14 to protect its members from the novel coronavirus, it was expected that the bill would pass by voice vote in the House, meaning that it would have unanimous consent and the members would not have to come back for a roll call vote. But a single representative could block that, and one did, Thomas Massie (R-KY), who demanded that his colleagues return to Washington, D.C. to vote. He could be voted down by a quorum, and was, as members of the House returned to vote against him, and hoo, boy, were they angry that he had demanded a grandstanding vote that would threaten their health. House members came back into the chamber to make a quorum, standing apart from each other, and attacked Massie for the arrogance that made them take airplanes and meet in close quarters against medical advice. Still, it was former Secretary of State John Kerry who had the last word. He tweeted: “Congressman Massie has tested positive for being an asshole. He must be quarantined to prevent the spread of his massive stupidity.”

The House then passed the bill and sent it on to the president who signed it.


And with King Donald there always is a “but”.

When Trump signed it, he included a “signing statement.” These used to be quite innocuous statements in which a president would thank the people involved in writing the bill, or talk about how important a bill was. President George W. Bush began to use these statements to challenge the content of a bill without being forced to veto the entire thing, saying, for example, that he would not honor certain portions of it. And that’s what happened tonight. Trump issued a signing statement saying he would ignore the law’s provisions for an independent inspector general overseeing the disbursal of funds for corporate bailouts. His argument is that such a provision intrudes on the rights of the executive to block information from Congress. If this holds, it would erase the Democrats’ key victory in the negotiations over the bill.

So now who is against transparency and who is playing politics with our lives?

It is not the House Democrats, but rather the president, who is playing politics with this massive relief bill that was so painstakingly negotiated. He remains eager to gather power into his own hands.

I’ve got a label for it: Narcissistic Personality Disorder. See my other posts today on Trump’s mental disorders.

In other news, tonight Trump told reporters he would not talk to the Democratic governors he thought were insufficiently grateful for his help fighting the coronavirus. “All I want them to do—very simple: I want them to be appreciative.”

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