UPDATE: As The Washington Post and POLITICO report, the White House is trading barbs with Democrats over whose fault it is that nothing is happening…which somehow overlooks the fact that the holdup is in the SENATE, which is controlled by Republicans. From WaPo:
“We anticipate that we will have a bill, but we’re not there yet,” Pelosi said.
Eager to avoid blame for Friday’s expiration of enhanced unemployment for some 20 million jobless Americans, Republicans have increasingly coalesced around the idea of trying to pass a short-term fix. But Democrats have repeatedly rejected that approach and continue pushing for a wide-ranging $3 trillion bill the House passed in May. That bill would extend unemployment benefits through January.
“We put forward what we need for the American people because we recognize the gravity of the situation. They don’t,” Pelosi said.
In order to get an update on the progress of legislation in the Republican-controlled Senate, it is apparently necessary to now ask the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell isn’t even mentioned until you get at least halfway through reading each of the stories linked above.
Should you place blame for relief inaction on a) The White House, or b) Democrats? Well, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed another relief bill back in May, so you can’t accuse them of not doing their job. The White House isn’t doing a lot of leading, but the real blame here goes to the one group of elected officials who continually duck out the back door: Senate Republicans.
One week ago today, we wrote this headline: “Senate Republicans Fail Americans.” The Senate adjourned for a three-day weekend last Thursday without so much as a back-of-the-napkin plan for a coronavirus relief package…fast forward one week, and this paragraph works just as well today:
The House passed a massive coronavirus relief package in May called the “Heroes Act.” The Senate has not taken up this legislation and has instead tried — and failed — to craft something of its own. Extended unemployment benefits passed by Congress in March will expire at the end of this month, but Senate Republicans were unable to come up with a plan to help the 20-25 million unemployed Americans who desperately need this assistance. So they went home for a 3-day weekend, saying they’ll try again next week.
That’s right: Senate Republicans adjourned AGAIN on Thursday evening for another three-day weekend without making any headway on a badly-needed coronavirus relief bill and no movement on extended unemployment benefits, which officially run dry today.
As Roll Call reports:
“We just don’t think they understand the gravity of the problem,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said after a two-hour meeting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
“I think they understand that we have to have a bill, but they just don’t realize how big it has to be,” Pelosi said. [Pols emphasis]
President Donald Trump earlier this week floated the possibility of renewing supplemental unemployment benefits temporarily, as well as extending an expiring moratorium on evictions from federally backed housing. Democratic leaders rejected a similar offer at a meeting Wednesday, and it wasn’t immediately clear what new ideas Mnuchin and Meadows brought to the table Thursday…
…It was the fourth meeting in as many days between the four principals, which haven’t included the top Republicans on Capitol Hill, who for now are leaving the negotiations to Trump’s deputies. [Pols emphasis] More talks are set for Friday and possibly Saturday as well, Mnuchin said.
Senate Republicans have become so impotent that Democratic leaders are once again negotiating directly with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell isn’t even in the room. President Trump is too busy trying to undermine the 2020 election.
On Monday, Senate Republicans finally unveiled their version of a coronavirus relief bill, but it contained so much extraneous nonsense that the legislation was labeled a non-starter by Senators from both political parties. Meanwhile, economists from both sides of the political spectrum are practically begging the Senate to act in order to stave off economic disaster. As The Washington Post reports:
The nation learned Thursday that the U.S. economy endured its worst slump on record this spring, but a larger problem now looms: The nascent recovery appears to be faltering in July, and lawmakers are more divided than ever over what to do about it.
The risk is growing that the economy is going to backslide, a painful scenario where workers who regained jobs in May and June lose them again, and businesses that had started to reopen are forced to shutter, possibly forever. It’s already happening in parts of the country that are seeing a spike in coronavirus cases.
Once the downward spiral starts — more job losses leading to less consumer spending leading to more business closures leading to more job losses — it can lead to an even deeper downturn that permanently damages the economy for years to come. Economists say the United States is not spiraling yet, but the nation is at an inflection point.
With a vaccine still months away, there’s a growing consensus among economists that the best tool the nation has to prevent a long, ugly downturn is for Congress to go big on another relief package [Pols emphasis].
And to those Senate Republican leaders, including Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul, “right-leaning economists” say: “Now is not the time to worry about the debt.”
As Roll Call notes, vulnerable Senate Republicans seem to understand how bad it looks for them to be leaving town (again) without making progress on a relief package:
Before senators began trickling out of town for the weekend Thursday afternoon, [Arizona Sen. Martha] McSally went to the floor to try a last-ditch unanimous consent effort to renew the $600 benefit for seven days. Schumer blocked the move, saying “a one-week fix can’t be implemented in time and the senator knows that.”
Many Americans have already received their last extended unemployment benefits check, and state unemployment agencies would struggle to implement an extended benefit that only lasts for a few more days.
But at least McSally is kinda paying attention. As for Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner? He’s worried about…other things:
— Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) July 30, 2020