By Robert Schroeder
President Donald Trump on Tuesday night suggested he might not sign the roughly $900 billion coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress on Monday, calling it a “disgrace” and demanding a boost in payments to households.
What comes next?
Options abound: Trump could sign it after all; he could veto the measure outright; or he could, in a first for his nearly completed term in office, “pocket veto” it. Congress, meanwhile, could override a presidential veto should Trump take that route.
As of Wednesday morning, there was some optimism that the whole thing would blow over.
“Our base case expectation is that the bill will not be changed from its current state and President Trump will ultimately sign it into law,” wrote Henrietta Treyz, director of economic policy at Veda Partners, in a note.
Trump did not explicitly say he would veto the bill, but when he might sign it is also critical. Congress has approved the package, and Trump has signed a stopgap budget keeping the government running through Dec. 28. That means a government shutdown is on the horizon next week if Trump doesn’t act.
Several items Trump criticized in a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday night were actually part of the larger government funding bill coupled with the coronavirus aid package as omnibus legislation.
Hunter Hammond, an analyst at Height Capital Markets, said in a note Wednesday that if Trump does veto the bill, “we see an override vote as the most likely outcome,” though that would delay its becoming law.
“We see an increase in direct payments as possible, but unlikely,” he said, while he called the possibility of the whole bill falling apart “the least likely, but not completely implausible, outcome.”
Trump could also prevent the bill from becoming law through what’s known as a pocket veto — taking no action before the start of the next Congress. That possibility comes into play if the bill isn’t quickly sent to the president.
Trump is scheduled to leave Washington Wednesday afternoon for his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. He has no other events on his schedule.