|President Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House on Wednesday. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)|
MILLIONS OF Americans have acquitted themselves admirably during 2020, rising to the 12-month national challenge caused by a deadly coronavirus pandemic that remains to be resolved. Even Congress outperformed many expectations, passing two bipartisan pandemic relief measures: the $2.2 trillion Cares Act in March and a $908 billion follow-up measure Monday night.
Yet instead of rewarding this good behavior, President Trump has given the United States chaos for Christmas. Denouncing the bill, and then decamping from Washington for his Florida home with scant time left on Congress’s legislative calendar, he has gratuitously created the possibility of a veto that could not be overridden. Potential consequences include a government shutdown and — just as unthinkable — failure to deliver crucial support for the unemployed, small businesses and public health.
Mr. Trump demands direct payments of up to $8,000 for families of four earning as much as $150,000, which is far more than the $600-per-person his own negotiators agreed to and which would cost an additional $370 billion. The president’s last-minute dealbreaking was too much even for the usually Trump-compliant House Republicans. They quite rightly shot down House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) attempt to pass the extra money by unanimous consent Thursday. We can hardly fault Ms. Pelosi for taking a free shot at the GOP after Mr. Trump embraced the politically popular idea of free money for voters, but the cause of bigger “stimulus checks” is not remotely worth blowing up Congress’s overall compromise. Sending billions of federally borrowed dollars to families earning twice the median income is the opposite of progressive and would not even stimulate the economy very much, since experience shows higher earners are likely to save the money, not spend it.