Reports are varying out of Washington this afternoon over the state of negotiations over another round of economic relief legislation, which has been stalled for months as the economy sputters and Americans tighten their belts–and is nearly out of runway with Congress’ pre-election recess looming. Politico:
[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi cast serious doubt on the likelihood of an agreement during a private call with House Democrats Thursday, stressing multiple times that Republicans don’t “share our values” on the need to provide trillions of dollars in health and economic relief to Americans impacted by the pandemic.
The California Democrat also outlined several key areas where Democrats and Republicans remained far apart, including a child tax credit, where she said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has refused to approve even one dollar in new spending while Democrats have sought tens of billions of dollars for the initiative. The two parties have also been at odds over additional aid for state and local governments — a Democratic push — and Republican demands for liability protections for businesses and schools…
“We come from two different places,” Pelosi told reporters at a press conference later Thursday. “Hopefully we can find our common ground on this and do so soon.”
The Washington Post reports that the House will proceed to vote on Democrats’ latest stimulus proposal, which is a compromise effort reduced by $1.2 trillion-with-a-T from the original HEROES Act passed all the way back in May. But it’s still meeting heavy resistance that calls into question the good faith of Republican negotiators at a pretty basic level:
The legislation expected on the House floor Thursday evening is a slimmed-down version of the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act the House passed in May, which Senate Republicans and the White House dismissed as excessively costly. Republicans are leveling the same complaints against the new bill, but moderate Democrats, in particular, were eager to try to advance a new piece of legislation before returning to their districts to campaign for re-election.
Pelosi (D-Calif.) insisted that plans to vote on the new bill did not preclude reaching a deal with Mnuchin. In the past several days the two have resumed bipartisan negotiations that collapsed in early August, though without reaching agreement so far…
There is overlap in what Democrats want and the $1.62 trillion offer Mnuchin made to Pelosi on Wednesday, which included $1,200 checks, $400 weekly unemployment benefits, and $75 billion for coronavirus testing and tracing, among other provisions, according to two people familiar with its contents who spoke on the condition of anonymity to confirm it. There’s also $250 billion for state and local governments, but Democrats want more.
Here in Colorado, the question of aid to state and local governments to offset massive revenue losses from the economic pause to fight the COVID-19 pandemic is an extremely important matter, one that will directly impact our state’s already strained budget for essential services depending on whether Democrats in these negotiations or Republicans get their way. Aid from the CARES Act is the only thing that saved the legislature from having to make much greater cuts in this year’s abbreviated session, and that fiscal bloodbath is waiting if federal aid is withdrawn before the economy can recover enough to supply pre-pandemic levels of revenue.
If you’re asking why Democrats are holding out, this is the answer–and although Republicans know it’s not as politically lucrative as $1,200 checks made out to every American taxpayer, it’s really important that aid to local governments to keep basic functions of government functioning be a part of this bill too.
For Sen. Cory Gardner, who briefly became known by the nickname “Santa Cory” in the spring for his enthusiastic support for stimulus measures he panned under President Barack Obama, this impasse is poorly timed. Colorado voters know that the sticking point here is not a “blue state bailout,” but necessary support for all the services states and local governments provide for their residents.
It all boils down to this: one side wants to help, and the other side wants to help less.
In 2020, the politically desirable position seems obvious.