It’s honestly next to impossible to describe just how badly Senate Republicans and the White House have screwed the pooch on relief funding, but let’s try.
Here’s the basics (all of which Daily Kos touched over last couple weeks): Donald Trump has lost juice with the Senate GOP caucus because he’s about obliterate them in the election; Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can’t coordinate his caucus because the group of solely self-interested heathens have bifurcated into those trying to save their seats and those licking their chops at Trump’s demise; Trump and McConnell—who also aren’t in sync—are both sitting out talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, leaving two negotiators with little-to-no actual legislative experience and no distinct set of core GOP principles to forge a compromise with Democrats.
Normally, the mainstream media fails to capture the GOP’s sheer incompetence in all its unedited glory, but this Washington Post piece comes close (save the headline, which impugns “Congress” more generally). Remember, House Democrats passed their $3 trillion bill to preserve the enhanced $600 unemployment payments, block evictions, and give new aid to cities and states back in May while Republicans and the White House didn’t even start their internal discussions about new relief until last week.
First, Trump’s already shot himself in the foot, twice.
President Trump’s weakening standing in the polls means there is less imperative for reluctant fiscal conservatives to rally around legislation that might help his political fortunes. The president himself has also reduced the sense of urgency for some in his party by embracing unlikely hopes that the economy can heal itself by reopening, or that the virus will disappear on its own.
When McConnell finally released the GOP’s $1 trillion bill, it was irrelevant “in a matter of days.”
McConnell finally released a $1 trillion bill last Monday as the GOP’s answer to the much larger bill passed by House Democrats in May, but he struggled to get consensus within his party and with the Trump administration. … Facing a deadline Friday for $600 weekly emergency unemployment benefits to expire for nearly 30 million Americans, Republicans quickly started to pivot to talking about a short-term unemployment insurance fix, rendering their own bill all but irrelevant in a matter of days — with Trump himself dismissing it as “sort of semi-irrelevant” the day after it was released.
That’s worse than introducing nothing at all. McConnell didn’t even provide a starting point for negotiations with Democrats because he forged no consensus within his own caucus.
Once more, neither Trump nor McConnell is involved in the negotiations.
After 3-1/2 years of rancor under the Trump administration, there is little trust left between the two parties, and no direct communication at all between Trump and Pelosi. …
McConnell is not negotiating directly with Pelosi or Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), leaving that up to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Multiple lawmakers and aides said the pair’s lack of legislative and congressional experience complicates the dealmaking process, especially after the recent departure of the White House legislative affairs director, Eric Ueland, who had many years of experience on Capitol Hill.
Mnuchin and Meadows are reportedly in close contact with McConnell, but frankly he rendered himself irrelevant to the cause when his own bill crashed and burned.
Congressional Democrats are the only lawmakers coordinated around one simple concept: providing enough stimulus to individuals and the economy overall to keep the country from sliding into a years-long depression.
If Meadows and Mnuchin were even remotely smart, they would make a deal with Democrats and just leave McConnell with the choice of putting the bill on the floor (where it would likely get enough GOP and Democratic support to pass, even it lost half his caucus) or dooming the economy. Even McConnell is likely smart enough to figure out the lesser of two evils on that one.
And the fact is, Democrats and the White House have some clear goals that align, including continuing the enhanced $600 unemployment payments (which Trump endorsed via tweet Friday) and prohibiting evictions. Plus, neither of them care one lick about McConnell’s line in the sand—liability protections for businesses. The sticking point between the White House and Democrats is that Trump wants the economic sugar high of quickly putting money in Americans’ pockets while Democrats are trying to wholly address the economic needs of the country.
But even the White House’s approach is better than that of McConnell and a prohibitive core of his caucus.
… a significant minority of GOP lawmakers … think Congress has done its job and should not spend any more money at all to pile on the deficit.
Can you even imagine being a congressional lawmaker right now, looking at the country getting eaten alive by the pandemic, and thinking you have done your job? In other words, let’s just sit back and watch the coronavirus turn the country into a trash heap of misery.
Believe it or not, one of the more telling quotes of the piece came from a former top adviser to Paul Ryan, who utterly failed as speaker. “Our politics is such that there must be significant political pain before hard things can get done,” said Brendan Buck told the Post. “That’s our forcing mechanism, and the political pain will be starting very soon.”
Democrats have been focused on the political pain coming down the pike since May. Meanwhile, the always nimble Republicans began to sense trouble just last week but still couldn’t manage to coalesce around addressing the problem. Very soon, McConnell, who is up for reelection himself and stands a good chance of losing his majority, is going to be eager to paint his caucus as a source of the solution, whether or not it’s true. By simply putting a bill on the floor—regardless of whether it garners the support of a majority of his caucus—he would at least have the fallback of suggesting Republicans didn’t block the relief funding, even though they impeded its progress every step of the way. For the sake of the country, let’s hope the hapless Mnuchin and Meadows start ignoring the guy who’s effectively made himself entirely irrelevant to the negotiation—Mitch McConnell.