For the third consecutive week, we have a Friday story with the same headline…because it’s the same story.
The U.S. Senate has left town — again — despite not coming anywhere close to figuring out a plausible path forward on a new coronavirus relief/stimulus bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday that the Senate would recess for the time being — though not for its previously-scheduled August recess — and told CNBC that he believed that there would be a deal “at some point in the near future.” McConnell said this despite the fact that he’s not even involved in the discussions anymore; he continues to blame Democrats for the fact that a Republican-controlled Senate can’t come up with a relief package, even though the House of Representatives passed one in May.
In the meantime, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are still negotiating a legislative proposal with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. As POLITICO reports:
At a news conference Friday, Pelosi and Schumer said that Democrats offered to reduce their ask by $1 trillion if the White House went up $1 trillion, only to have the administration reject it. They added that any deal below $2 trillion would not get Democratic support.
“We are trying to compromise,” Schumer said. “Basically what’s happening is Mr. Meadows is from the Tea Party, you have 20 Republicans in the Senate greatly influenced by them and they don’t want to spend the necessary dollars to help get America out of this mess.”
In a series of closed-door meetings over the last two weeks, Mnuchin, Meadows, Schumer and Pelosi have made progress on narrowing their differences on unemployment insurance but remain far apart on state and local aid, election security funding and help for renters, among a host of other issues.
“The situation has also left Senate Republicans up for re-election…with the unappealing prospect of facing voters in less than three months without having acted to address their most pressing economic and public health needs.”
— The New York Times (8/5/20)
Earlier this week, Carl Hulse of The New York Times tried to explain how it is that McConnell and Senate Republicans have punted on the only issue that really matters to most Americans right now:
Mr. McConnell has only himself to thank for his predicament.
While Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed through a sweeping, $3 trillion recovery measure in May and Democrats demanded for months that Republicans join them in mapping out a next phase of federal pandemic relief, Mr. McConnell instead hit the pause button, which he and his fellow Republicans said was necessary to assess how the nearly $3 trillion in aid already approved was working…
…But the delay meant that Republicans did not even present their aid proposals until days before expanded unemployment benefits that were cushioning millions of Americans from the worst of the recession were to expire. They lapsed last week with no ready replacement, and a small-business program considered crucial to preventing a total economic collapse is set to expire on Friday, leading Democrats to accuse Mr. McConnell of acting irresponsibly.
“He’s not even sitting in the room,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, said on Tuesday, suggesting that Mr. McConnell was unaware of the substance of the talks. [Pols emphasis]
This is bad news for all Americans. Politically-speaking, it’s also terrible for Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). According to a new Public Policy Poll released this week, the majority of Coloradans surveyed believe that Congress should either renew or increase the $600 extended unemployment (UI) benefit; additionally, 36% of respondents said they would look at Gardner “much less favorably” if he voted against a proposal to extend the extended benefits. Gardner is surely aware of this predicament, which is why he doesn’t say much of anything publicly but makes sure that his Senate office continues to convey the idea that he is all things to all people.
Will we be writing this same story again one week from today? We sure hope not…but we can’t pretend to have any confidence otherwise.