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House passes stimulus check boost as Republicans splinter

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House passes stimulus check boost as Republicans splinter

“We could’ve passed the bill four days ago but our colleagues on the other side went against the president’s wishes and blocked it,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said Monday.

Action now turns to the Senate, where it’s unclear if the chamber will even take up the House proposal, despite Trump insisting Sunday night he had secured an agreement from Republican leaders to do so. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will try to pass the House bill by unanimous consent Tuesday but Republicans are expected to object. Many GOP senators have previously resisted higher stimulus checks.

Unless there’s cooperation from all 100 senators, it would take several days to set up a roll call vote on the proposal and it would need to garner 60 votes. That’s a steep path toward approval — and it’s all occurring during what should be a holiday break for Congress.

But even if Democrats cannot secure higher payments for the public, Trump has handed them an opportunity to seize a politically popular stance and divide the GOP in the process. Just 44 House Republicans voted for the larger checks, with 130 opposed.

“The president of the United States has put this forth as something he wants to see,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said before the vote. “I hope that view will be shared by the Republicans in the Senate.”

President-elect Joe Biden also weighed in on the issue Monday, telling reporters he was in favor of boosting the checks to $2,000. Trump was unusually quiet on Monday, with the only reported sightings of the president occurring at his golf course in West Palm Beach.

In a press conference Monday, Schumer said Trump needs to be much more vocal in demanding Republican support if he wants to get the stimulus boost enacted.

“These Senate Republicans have followed you through thick and thin,” Schumer said. “To the president: talking is not enough. Act. Get on the phone and get those Republicans in the Senate to support $2,000 in relief.”

In a sign that the bigger checks are gaining some favor among conservatives, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) endorsed the $2000 payments as the House voted: ”I share many of my colleagues’ concern about the long-term effects of additional spending, but we cannot ignore the fact that millions of working class families across the nation are still in dire need of relief.”

Still, Democrats expect, many Republicans will use the cost increase as a justification for not backing the bill. Increasing the direct payments to $2,000 would cost about $464 billion, up from the roughly $160 billion now, according to a congressional estimate released Monday.

A handful of Republicans, including Ways and Means Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-Texas), spoke out in opposition to the bill, citing the added expense or saying the money could be better spent elsewhere in the economy.

The House was already scheduled to be in session Monday to dispatch another Trump-related wrinkle — the president’s veto of the annual defense policy bill. The bill, which has been signed into law for nearly 60 years straight, passed both chambers earlier this month with veto-proof majorities. If the House and Senate are successful this week in bucking Trump, it will be the first veto override of his presidency.

Late Monday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he would block Senate consideration of the veto override until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to bring the House’s stimulus check bill up for a vote. The odd couple of Sanders and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) joined together to push for $1,200 stimulus checks during the coronavirus relief negotiations earlier this month.

The House stimulus vote on Monday caps off an unusually frenetic week in Washington, a town that even for its unpredictable political gambits is usually quiet over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

A week ago, Congress finally broke an eight-month logjam to pass the desperately needed aid bill after days of drama and hard-fought negotiations. Lawmakers quickly jetted out of town only to be blindsided mid-week by a video Trump posted on Twitter railing against the bill.

The ambush left Washington in limbo for several days, as the president continued to criticize the direct payment amounts negotiated by his own Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, and the foreign aid levels requested by his own White House.

The move also teed up a game of chicken with congressional leaders, who refused to haul lawmakers back to Capitol Hill to address Trump’s demands and began making contingency plans in case the president allowed government funding to lapse Monday at midnight.

The House first tried to pass the bill boosting direct payments on Christmas Eve via unanimous consent but Republicans objected. Over the weekend, Trump continued to rail against the relief package only to finally sign it late Sunday after days of lobbying by some of his closest congressional allies, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

While Trump avoided a government shutdown, his delay caused at least a temporary lapse in critical unemployment benefits to millions of struggling Americans; the programs expired the day after Christmas and were renewed in the relief package.

In additional to unemployment aid and direct payments, the roughly $900 billion measure provides coronavirus funding for schools, small businesses and vaccine distribution.

Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

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Will There Be a Trump Presidential Library? Don’t Count On It.

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Will There Be a Trump Presidential Library? Don’t Count On It.

Where could Trump put his? Sometimes universities help provide homes for local presidents, like the University of Texas, which provided 30 acres on its Austin campus for LBJ. But it’s hard to imagine either of Trump’s colleges, Fordham or Penn, willingly hosting his library. Even less controversial presidents have run into friction with such plans. Duke University rejected Nixon, who got his law degree there. Stanford rejected the Reagan Library. Southern Methodist University faculty and students protested the George W. Bush Library, but the library eventually did open on its University Park campus. While each of these presidents had his controversies, none was as widely reviled by a large and diverse swath of the country.

However opposition forms, it can be hard to persist and overcome, for even the most patient and connected of former presidents. The Obama Center has had its groundbreaking delayed for years by community opposition in Chicago—the city that launched his political career.

Trump also has some challenges that are uniquely his own. As of this writing, we don’t know if he’ll run again in 2024. We don’t know if he’ll launch a competitor to Fox News, OAN and Newsmax. We don’t know if he’ll seek to form a new party, or if his party will seek to break from him (though the latter, currently, seems unlikely). We do know the announcement of a presidential library, center or whatever it may be called, is a sign of the end of a political career. A capstone. In effect, a notice of retirement—at least from office-seeking. And Trump has shown little inclination to step decisively out of the public eye.

Even if he did, Trump would then have to raise, legitimately, and according to the laws of the state in which he creates his foundation, hundreds of millions of dollars to build a traditional presidential library, with a museum, archives and space for public events, his foundation’s offices, and whatever other activities he wishes to attempt within such a limited legal and financial environment.

To say the least, Trump has shown little ability to operate a legitimate nonprofit foundation, never mind build an endowment. He’ll have considerable difficulty doing so in his home state of New York. Under a 2019 court order, after “admitting to personally misusing funds at the Trump Foundation,” Trump agreed to a settlement that—should he succeed in persuading anyone to give him the money at all—puts an extremely short leash on any nonprofit he might launch in that state.

If he does build a library, it’s likely Trump would want the legitimacy and imprimatur of the federal government, as a “seal of approval” for his story, told his way. He might even like to have the National Archives host his exhibits about how “great” he made America (again), and, perhaps, how great was the “theft” of his second term. But to do any of that, the law will require him not only to spend the money on the grounds and building, but to raise hundreds of millions of additional dollars—and give it, almost unthinkably, to the government.

If there’s a model for a rule-breaking outsider like Trump, it might be—ironically—the Obama library. But if anything, Obama’s experience shows just how hard it would be for a character not known for focus or persistence.

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"I haven't been able to get this moment out of my head"

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"I haven't been able to get this moment out of my head"

This week’s episode of Nerdcast

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Republicans who impeached Trump are already on the chopping block

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Former President Donald Trump waves as he disembarks from his final flight on Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.

Democrats have control of the House, the Senate and the White House. But if they want to get anything done, like a massive Covid bill, they’re gonna have to work across the aisle.

“I personally know those Washington State members of Congress who voted to impeach Trump. Our friendship will continue but no more financial support from me. In my view they just retired from Congress,” said Khorram, a real estate developer who has previously given to Rep. Dan Newhouse, another Republican in the state who supported impeachment.

Deep-pocketed outside groups are also engaging. Chris Ekstrom, the chair of the Courageous Conservatives political action committee, said his organization would be focusing on defeating Cheney, Gonzalez, and South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice.

“All of them are vulnerable. Some things stick in politics and I think this outrageous betrayal will,” said Ekstrom. “Examples will be made.”

Ekstrom, a Dallas investor, said he was beginning to reach out to Texas-based Trump donors to raise money for the effort.

People close to Trump say he is particularly fixated on the Republicans who backed impeachment and is determined to take them out. The former president has raised more than $200 million since the election, much of which has been directed into a new committee than could be used to back primary opponents. Trump aides have also been at work creating a political apparatus that can be deployed in the 2022 elections.

While Trump is gone from the White House, Republican still face a conundrum: How to mollify his tens of millions of supporters, many of whom remain convinced that the election was stolen and insist that Trump isn’t to blame for the Jan. 6 riot. Party officials concede that they need to keep Trump’s loyalists in the fold and say failure to do so will complicate their political fortunes in 2022 and beyond.

With the Senate impeachment trial looming, attention is shifting to Republican lawmakers in that chamber who must decide whether to vote to convict Trump. Several incumbents face potentially challenging general election contests, and their prospects could be further complicated by primary fights. Trump has already said he wants to oust red-state Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and John Thune (S.D.) for not supporting his drive to subvert the election results.

But some Republicans argue that any political fallout for impeachment supporters will be short-lived. They insist that among GOP voters there’s been widespread revulsion over Trump’s role in the uprising and say that many are in favor of impeachment.

Rice, a five-term South Carolina congressman from the conservative northeastern part of the state, said most of the people he’d heard from had expressed disapproval for his vote. But he said he’d also gotten positive feedback from hundreds of people across the country, including some who offered campaign contributions.

“There are a number of people who have expressed their displeasure obviously and others who are happy with a vote of principle. I didn’t swear an oath to Donald Trump, I didn’t swear an oath to the Republican Party, I swore an oath to defend the Constitution. That’s what I intend to do,” said Rice.

The Trump forces will face high hurdles in defeating any of the pro-impeachment Republicans. Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, raised nearly $3 million during the 2020 election cycle and is certain to have a substantial campaign account in 2022. Cheney is also a well-known commodity in the state: She is the daughter of former vice president and ex-Wyoming congressman Dick Cheney.

The rush to take on Cheney may make it harder to unseat her — a trend that may play out in other districts, too. With multiple candidates in the race, the primary challengers face the prospect of splintering their support and giving the three-term congresswoman an easy path to victory.

Complicating matters further is redistricting, the once-in-a-decade drawing of congressional lines which will determine where House candidates seek election. Hagan said she was waiting for clarity on how Ohio’s map would be reconfigured.

But even at this early stage of the midterm election cycle, the impeachment vote is looming large in the minds of Republicans.

Rice said he did not want to offer advice to senators on how they should vote in Trump’s upcoming trial. But he noted that the Capitol siege had imperiled the lives of lawmakers, including many who had been loyal to the president. The congressman recalled sheltering in a saferoom, not knowing if someone outside had a weapon. All the while, Rice said, Trump was doing nothing to quell the violence.

“If that’s not high crimes and misdemeanors, I don’t know what is,” Rice said. “I don’t know what it would take.”

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