The unreal spectacle of Republican lawmakers blocking Trump’s proposal for $2000 stimulus payments for Americans and Democrats supporting it is playing out in Washington in the closing days of a traumatic year, with promise of more pain the coming days. If lawmakers cannot arrive at a deal soon, unemployment benefits for 14 million Americans will expire on Saturday, and an eviction moratorium protecting some 30 million Americans from being turfed out of rental properties will end on December 31.
The federal government itself will shutdown on December 28 midnight if lawmakers do not approve an extension in funding.
“Today, on Christmas Eve morning, House Republicans cruelly deprived the American people of the $2,000 that the President agreed to support,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement on Thursday as lawmakers hung on in Washington DC for political skirmishes ahead of the biggest holiday week of the year. “If the President is serious about the $2,000 direct payments, he must call on House Republicans to end their obstruction.”
But Trump headed off for holidays to his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida amid uncertainty whether he would even return to the White House, which is emptying out fast even as he insists he won a second term, something even the Republican leadership now acknowledges is not true. Whether the party dumps Trump or Trump breaks the party will become clear in the next few days now that the establishment GOP has virtually accepted the imminence of a Biden presidency.
In a typical Inauguration Day transfer of power, the outgoing President and spouse welcome the newly-elected president and First Lady for tea at the White House, an Oval Office meeting, and a shared ride from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue up to the Capitol for the oath taking ceremony at noon.
That looks off the table now given Trump’s intransigence on not recognizing a Biden victory, with Covid-19 fears providing cover for bailing out of the established routine. Still, there are signs that Trump will leave the White House once Congress formally certifies election results during a joint session on January 6, which presents the President a last chance to torpedo the results.
Earlier this week, administration officials issued directions to White House staffers on how to pack up from their jobs and offices before abruptly withdrawing the memo.
The memo informed them about when they would receive their final paycheck and when they would have to clear out their office and exit the White House. It also included housekeeping details such as cleaning the office microwave and refrigerator, returning Presidential gifts, and boxing up office supplies and things to take home.
The approximately 55,000-sq foot White House itself is expected to undergo a “deep cleaning” before the Bidens move in, given that it was a covid hotspot with more than a dozen people in Trump’s inner circle getting infected.
While majority of White House staff consists of political appointees whose jobs are co-terminus with the Presidency, the executive mansion and residence has about 100 permanent staffers, including ushers, butlers, valets etc who transition into the next dispensation.
Reports from Florida also say First Lady Melania Trump has been scouting elite private schools for her son Barron Trump, who is now in 9th grade — a sign that she too is reconciled to leaving. She has reportedly toured Pine Crest school in Fort Lauderdale, which is about 40 minutes away from Mar-a-Lago, and costs $ 35,000 per year.