Donald Trump reluctantly signed the bill that provides Coronavirus relief payments and funds the government for the next nine months — but released a petulant statement along with it. The statement’s a little confusing, so I’ll provide a translation.
First, some context. Democrat and Republican congressional leaders negotiated the bill with Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s Treasury Secretary. It includes, among other provisions, $600 payments to individuals, extended unemployment benefits, funding for vaccine distribution, and funding for the entire government. Trump has been railing against it for days now, asking for higher direct payments (which Democrats would prefer) and decrying the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink list of oddball provisions included in the 5000-page bill. But failing to sign it would lead to a government shutdown, interfere with efforts to slow the spread of the virus, further damage the economy, and make Republicans look stingy when they need to win two Senate races in Georgia to to maintain their Senate majority .
Trump felt forced to sign it. But he’s unhappy. Hence the petulant signing statement.
Analyzing Trump’s signing statement
Here’s Trump’s statement, with a translation by me.
Statement from the President
December 27, 2020
As President of the United States it is my responsibility to protect the people of our country from the economic devastation and hardship that was caused by the China Virus.
I understand that many small businesses have been forced to close as a result of harsh actions by Democrat-run states. Many people are back to work, but my job is not done until everyone is back to work.
Translation: Congress passed this law, but this statement is about me, The President of the United States. By saying words like “China Virus” I can remind you that I take no responsibility in the same sentence where I say I take responsibility, including, apparently for the employment of every single citizen in America.
Fortunately, as a result of my work with Congress in passing the CARES Act earlier this year, we avoided another Great Depression. Under my leadership, Project Warp Speed has been a tremendous success, my Administration and I developed a vaccine many years ahead of wildest expectations, and we are distributing these vaccines, and others soon coming, to millions of people.
Translation: Congress passed the CARES act. Scientists created vaccines quickly. But all those efforts were really about me! I’ll be leaving soon, but don’t forget about me!
As President, I have told Congress that I want far less wasteful spending and more money going to the American people in the form of $2,000 checks per adult and $600 per child.
Translation: I disagree with my own Treasury Secretary and agree with Bernie Sanders. Please give me credit for trying to give you more money even though it will never happen.
As President I am demanding many rescissions under the Impoundment Control Act of 1974. The Act provides that, “whenever the President determines that all or part of any budget authority will not be required to carry out the full objectives or scope of programs for which it is provided, or that such budget authority should be rescinded for fiscal policy or other reasons (including termination of authorized projects or activities for which budget authority has been provided), the President shall transmit to both Houses of Congress a special message” describing the amount to be reserved, the relevant accounts, the reasons for the rescission, and the economic effects of the rescission. 2 U.S.C. § 683.
I will sign the Omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed. I will send back to Congress a redlined version, item by item, accompanied by the formal rescission request to Congress insisting that those funds be removed from the bill.
Translation: By making a statement about rescissions, I get to sign this bill without taking responsibility for the parts I don’t like. I found a guy with a red pen and he’s scribbling on the bill now. I’ll be gone in 23 days. Congress will ignore everything I write and it won’t make a whit of difference.
I am signing this bill to restore unemployment benefits, stop evictions, provide rental assistance, add money for PPP, return our airline workers back to work, add substantially more money for vaccine distribution, and much more.
Translation: Ignore the rest of what’s in the 5000-page bill — I’ll only mention the parts I like.
On Monday the House will vote to increase payments to individuals from $600 to $2,000. Therefore, a family of four would receive $5,200.
Translation: Democrats will now humiliate Republicans with a proposal I’ve endorsed that has no chance of passing.
Additionally, Congress has promised that Section 230, which so unfairly benefits Big Tech at the expense of the American people, will be reviewed and either be terminated or substantially reformed.
Likewise, the House and Senate have agreed to focus strongly on the very substantial voter fraud which took place in the November 3 Presidential election.
The Senate will start the process for a vote that increases checks to $2,000, repeals Section 230, and starts an investigation into voter fraud.
Big Tech must not get protections of Section 230!
Voter Fraud must be fixed!
Much more money is coming. I will never give up my fight for the American people!
Translation: As long as I’m here, let’s talk about everything at random that is bugging me but has nothing to do with this bill. This includes repealing Section 230 because I’m mad at Twitter. And while I’m here, let’s talk about claims of voter fraud which never happened and which every court has rejected that are my excuse for being a loser. Voter fraud must be real because I! Am! Using! Exclamation! Points!!! I’m still relevant! I’ll never go away! Me! Me! Me! MeMeMeMe!
Is there something encouraging happening?
Something real happened here. Democrats, Republicans, and a representative of the administration got together and made government work for a change. This bill is a terrible grab bag and doesn’t do nearly enough to fix the serious health and economic problems we now face — but it’s far better than ending all the functions of government and paying nothing at all to solve the problems of the country.
Imagine, for a moment, what would happen if we had a functional administration and a balanced Congress. Is it possible that the people in our government might actually work together to get useful things done and pull the nation from the brink of disaster?
A person can hope.
I hope all of our lives are better in 2021. And I look forward to coherence and principled arguments in government.
Our long national nightmare is nearly over. Be well.