Trump Threatens Veto of Defense Bill

Trump Threatens Veto of Defense Bill

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Plus - Biden backs Pelosi on massive relief bill
Monday, November 23, 2020

Biden Backs Pelosi on Massive Stimulus Bill as Former Treasury Heads Call for More Aid

Joe Biden is backing House Democrats in their effort to negotiate a multi-trillion-dollar coronavirus relief bill, according to a Biden representative Monday. “The President-elect fully supports the Speaker and Leader in their negotiations," transition spokesperson Andrew Bates said.

The statement from the Biden team came in response to a report Sunday in The New York Times that Biden’s economic advisers – worried about both a double-dip recession driven by the recent surge in coronavirus infections and the difficulty House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) faces in reaching an agreement on a roughly $2 trillion relief bill with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – were pushing for a smaller package.

“Many of the president-elect’s advisers have become convinced that deteriorating economic conditions from the renewed surge in Covid-19 infections and the looming threat of millions of Americans losing jobless benefits in December amid a wave of evictions and foreclosures require more urgent action before year’s end,” the Times said. “That could mean moving at least part of the way toward Mr. McConnell’s offer of a $500 billion package.”

The Biden team’s pushback makes it clear that the incoming administration is sticking with its congressional allies, at least for now. But it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear more about accepting some kind of compromise deal in the coming weeks, especially if the economic data take a turn for the worse, as many Biden advisers fear.

Some Democrats are already talking about the need to pass any relief bill they can get, even if it’s smaller than the one House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is looking for. “I just hope that we can get agreement,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told CQ-Roll Call. “It may not be everything that everybody wants but at least if we can get some significant relief to people. And then we're going to be here next year. If we need to do other things, we'll do other things.”

Former Treasury secretaries call for more stimulus: Although they didn’t specify a dollar figure, a bipartisan group of former economic officials released a letter Monday calling on lawmakers to pass a new coronavirus stimulus package as soon as possible. Organized by the Aspen Institute's Economic Strategy Group, the letter’s signatories include former Treasury secretaries Henry Paulson, Timothy Geithner, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers; former Fed chair Ben Bernanke; and former White House economic advisers Jason Furman, Austan Goolsbee, N. Gregory Mankiw and Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

“Amidst a resurgence in COVID-19 caseloads and continuing economic devastation from the pandemic, we urge Congress to enact legislation that focuses on the core measures necessary to provide additional fiscal relief as quickly as possible and no later than the end of this calendar year,” the group said, adding that the “country and economy cannot wait until 2021.”

Fighting the pandemic is the single most important issue, the letter said, and lawmakers should also provide additional assistance for individuals and families, state and local governments, and small businesses.

“The CARES Act that was passed with bipartisan support in March 2020 provided necessary
relief to millions of Americans and helped the economy rebound more quickly than expected,” the groups said. “Our nation’s leaders should act on another round of fiscal relief now.”

Trump Threatens to Veto Defense Bill

Despite reports last week that the White House was looking to make a deal on the issue, President Donald Trump is threatening to veto the National Defense Authorization Act if it includes a provision that would require renaming military bases that honor Confederate leaders, NBC News reported Monday.

The NDAA – the annual bill that specifies the annual budget and expenditures for the Department of Defense – has passed every year for the past 59 years.

A veto is unlikely, though, since Sen. Mitch McConnell generally avoids bringing a bill that can’t be signed into law to the floor for a vote. "The president is not going to veto the defense bill and I can say that with almost absolute certainty," House Armed Services Chair Adam Smith (D-WA) said last week. "And the reason is because Mitch McConnell and Jim Inhofe are not going to send him a bill that he says he's going to veto."

If McConnell refuses to force the issue and Trump sticks to his guns, that leaves two options. Democrats could retreat and agree to remove the renaming provision, despite the fact that it has bipartisan support, while counting on President Biden to achieve the same end through executive action later on. Alternatively, the NDAA could simply wait for the next Congress, forcing lawmakers to start from scratch on the must-pass legislation in January.

Most Americans Say the Country Needs More Covid Aid

A substantial majority of Americans think more Covid-19 aid from the federal government is needed, according to new poll data from Pew Research.

In a survey of U.S. adults conducted from November 12 to November 17, 80% of respondents agreed that another economic assistance package is necessary, compared to 19% who said it was not. And most (85%) of those who support a new round of aid said the relief bill is needed as soon as possible, before President-elect Biden is sworn into office.

“Sizable majorities across nearly all demographic and income categories say more economic assistance is needed,” Pew said, though there were notable partisan differences. While a majority of Trump voters (61%) called for more aid, support was much higher among Biden voters (94%).

There were significant differences according to income level, as well, at least for Republicans. Only half (49%) of high-income Trump voters supported more aid, compared to 78% of low-income Trump voters. More than 90% of Biden supporters supported more aid, at all income levels.

Ways and Means Chair Wants to Go Big on Spending

According to Roll Call Monday, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) is hoping the incoming Biden administration will be receptive to a massive legislative package that combines coronavirus relief with new spending on green energy and infrastructure.

Based on recent proposals from House Democrats, such a package could total roughly $4 trillion over 10 years, with $2.4 trillion for the pandemic and $1.5 trillion for infrastructure and climate.

“I do think with a President Biden that stimulus linked to climate change and linked to infrastructure go hand in hand,” Neal told Roll Call’s Doug Sword. “Why don't we wrap them into one big bill, and given the Fed’s determination to keep interest rates low, we can do some borrowing.”

Convincing Mitch McConnell to support that kind of spending wouldn’t be easy, but Neal thinks he can win bipartisan support, in part by using tax credits and reforms to shape some of the spending programs. “My belief is that the best way to attack climate change is now going to have to be through tax incentives," Neal said. “I think that if we used tax incentives on the climate side there might be a more receptive audience given some of the intransigence that we've witnessed.”

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