Trump recently told congressional Republicans to "go big or go home" with a large stimulus package but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has responded with a small $500 billion nothingburger and other Republicans in Congress aren't calling for much of anything except less spending.
For most of the last four years, Republicans in Congress have repeatedly abandoned the temporary principles they reserved just for President Obama and done whatever Trump eventually tells them to do.
They would probably do that in this case, too, but we're just a few weeks away from the election and congressional GOP sources who spoke to Bloomberg say they're charting their own path because they know Trump is going to be even more wild than usual in his final days.
Many GOP lawmakers are keenly aware that Trump could pull the rug out from under them at any moment. They also are concerned he could be even more unpredictable on stimulus negotiations as the election draws nearer, according to a person familiar with conversations among lawmakers and their aides.
Senate GOP strategists also say they don't want to agree to any additional spending now so they can call for austerity under the Biden administration.
A GOP strategist who has been consulting with Senate campaigns said Republicans have been carefully laying the groundwork to restrain a Biden administration on federal spending and the budget deficit by talking up concerns about the price tag for another round of virus relief. The thinking, the strategist said, is that it would be very hard politically to agree on spending trillions more now and then in January suddenly embrace fiscal restraint.
If this is a significant reason why they haven't agreed to additional stimulus spending in the last six months, I think this tells us there won't be any more stimulus until February at the earliest. And that's only if Democrats gain control of the Senate.
From the GOP's perspective, refusing to pass stimulus will drop an even bigger economical bomb on a Democratic president and Congress and set up their 2022 and 2024 pitch to vote.
That's all they really care about; not people, families, or even necessarily the relative health of the economy. They only care about the next election and their next chance to hold power. There's not going to be any stimulus under the Christmas tree this year if Republicans believe that opposing it is their best chance to regain control.
Even if Democrats do regain control of the Senate, it seems that abolishing the legislative filibuster will be absolutely necessary to do anything at all because Republicans are going to run the same playbook they ran under President Obama: obstruct everything.
Republicans aren't wrong that Trump is unpredictable, but that's not a new thing. The only thing that may be new is their sense of self preservation over the next four years.