President Donald Trump is threatening not to sign Congress’ $900 billion coronavirus stimulus bill and is calling on lawmakers to boost stimulus checks for some Americans to $2,000, instead of the $600 check currently in the package. It’s just the latest move by the president that has caused confusion among lawmakers in 2020. GBH Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu spoke with WBZ political analyst Jon Keller about this year in politics as well as some of his predictions for 2021. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.
Joe Mathieu: Things keep changing under our feet here, so I guess we have to talk about the news for a minute.
Jon Keller: Yeah, this topic is the year in review really when you think about it.
Mathieu: I guess that’s true. It’s been on again, off again and, of course, it all comes back to COVID. We thought we had $600 checks going out. Some folks thought that was even a win, suggesting we might get another stimulus at the beginning of next year. But we’re walking a real tightrope here, Jon. There does appear to be some support among the Democratic leadership or we could just end with nothing at all.
Keller: Well, that looks like posturing to me from the Democrats. Their game plan here is get a bill done now, get something out the door, forestall some of the evictions and then after January 20, it’s a whole different ball game — you’re back in business with a new administration. If there’s one thing we know about Donald Trump after all these years, it’s that he’s petty and vindictive. I think that’s really what this is all about. He’s angry that Mitch McConnell and John Thune, the second in command at the Senate, committed the high crime and misdemeanor of indicating that, yes, Joe Biden has won the election. So he’s trying to get even. Now, they have the votes to override any veto. He could let it just sit on his desk aiming for a pocket veto, I suppose. But it’s a disaster for the Republicans because there are David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, the two GOP Senate candidates down in Georgia, on record as supporting the new stimulus package, and now they’ve had the limb cut off behind them by their lord and master, President Trump. It’s also, though, all snark aside — if this thing gets hung up — it’s a disaster for people who were relying on even that meager amount of payment.
Mathieu: That just becomes a national embarrassment at that point with tens of millions of people on unemployment. We’re talking about the days before Christmas here, the days before New Years, Jon. With all of that said, is there an opportunity for a Trump win here? Could this come back with [a] $2,000 check and he looks like a hero?
Keller: I doubt it. Mitch McConnell et al made it very clear that all of a sudden — after an administration in which they passed a massive tax windfall for the wealthier Americans — all of a sudden they’re worried about the deficit again. And it is a fact that within the Republican caucus in the Senate, there is a considerable amount of deficit hoc sentiment. So I don’t see Mitch McConnell caving into this. He can’t. It would step on all his messaging. So I think the likeliest scenario is if he follows through on the veto threat, and we often know he doesn’t follow through on his threats, a pretty quick override.
Mathieu: So instead of a year in review, Jon Keller, how about we do a year ahead because you just pointed to January 20th [and the] new administration coming in. Is it possible that after what many considered one of the worst political years in modern history, ’21 is even worse? You’ve got a Donald Trump on the sidelines unplugged now doing what he wants to make life impossible for the new administration and maybe a bunch of people in Congress.
Keller: Joe, I’m a lifelong Red Sox fan, and you always know that things can get worse. You also know in recent years that things can get better, even for the Red Sox. And in a way, I’m reminded of when Charlie Baker came in as governor in January of 2015. Remember, that was the winter of the snow-pocalypse. Worst winter ever here in Boston. Baker came in and immediately harvested this avalanche of goodwill, basically because he wasn’t Deval Patrick. People were sick and tired of the Patrick years. Baker came in, he was a reformer [and] he was trying to get the trains running again. He was low key, no drama. People really, really responded to that. I think there’s a potential possible scenario there for Joe Biden. There were a lot of similarities: low key style following a high-octane period that left many people exhausted and with a huge pile of problems on his platter that he didn’t cause. So it all depends on how well things go, but particularly if Georgia comes up with two Democrats in the Senate specials on January 5th. And even if they don’t, people forget the margin will still be so narrow that all you have to do if you’re Joe Biden is flip one or two Republicans. Paging Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, call your office and they’re in business. I think potentially this could be a good year for Joe Biden.