As the New York Times reports, the White House and Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi are inching closer to a deal on a comprehensive economic stimulus bill that includes the direct payments and aid to struggling state and local governments Democrats have been holding out for, and might even if everybody moves quickly get those checks in the mail before November 3. But there’s a problem:
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, told Republican senators privately on Tuesday that he has advised the White House not to strike a deal with Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a new stimulus bill before Election Day, cautioning against reaching an agreement that most in the party cannot accept.
Mr. McConnell’s counsel, confirmed by three Republicans familiar with his remarks, threw cold water on President Trump’s increasingly urgent push to enact a fresh round of pandemic aid before he faces voters on Nov. 3. It came just before Ms. Pelosi’s spokesman gave an upbeat assessment of talks on Tuesday between her and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, saying they had found “common ground as they move closer to an agreement.”
Ms. Pelosi had said earlier on Tuesday that she was “optimistic” a deal could be reached with the Trump administration in the coming days. But Mr. McConnell’s remarks underscored the divisions among Republicans that have long hampered a compromise, and which have broken out into an extraordinarily open intraparty feud just two weeks before the election.
Politico reports that despite the passage of a self-imposed deadline to finalize a deal, the House and White House are still talking and still hopeful for a breakthrough. One major obstacle stands in their way:
Pelosi and Mnuchin plan to speak again Wednesday after a productive, 45-minute call on Tuesday afternoon. Though a deal was not reached by her self-imposed Tuesday night deadline, enough progress was made that both sides felt like talks should continue, with Washington still waiting to see whether months of negotiations between the two will culminate in a multitrillion-dollar stimulus plan just two weeks before the presidential election…
But the California Democrat’s biggest obstacle may be across the Capitol — with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) privately urging the White House not to settle with Pelosi before the election. [Pols emphasis]
Although the ball of “responsibility” has bounced back and forth repeatedly in the course of negotiations over a second stimulus bill, the current state of play of the White House and Democrats working productively white Senate Republican leaders try to shut down a deal places vulnerable Republican Senators in a terrible spot less than two weeks from the election. Chief among them would have to be Colorado’s Sen. Cory Gardner, down by double digits in every recent poll, who has campaigned heavily on his support for stimulus legislation and even disingenuously hammered his opponent for not supporting a stillborn Republican counterproposal with no direct payments and woefully insufficient aid to states.
But is Cory Gardner calling out Mitch McConnell for working against a deal everybody else is trying desperately to close? Nope.
In the middle of the worst economic crisis Colorado has ever faced, Senate Democrats are blocking much needed relief for schools, testing, the unemployed, and our small businesses.
What’s @Hickenlooper saying? Nothing.
— Cory Gardner (@CoryGardner) October 20, 2020
Now, it’s possible that Cory Gardner lives in a fantasy world where either Mitch McConnell is a Democrat or the opposite of what every news story is reporting is actually what’s happening. But we think Gardner is referring to the scheduled revote in the Senate on the same inadequate $500 billion package rejected over a month ago–even though the White House and the Democratic-controlled House are distantly beyond that figure in their own negotiations. Either way, every American following the stimulus negotiations knows that Democrats are not blocking the next round of stimulus–all the resistance at this point is coming from the Senate GOP majority.
Gardner hiding behind McConnell’s pretenses instead of joining the team trying to keep Gardner’s promises is politically inexplicable, undoing any goodwill “Santa Cory” might have earned from backing the CARES Act back in March with no time left to recover. Gardner knows the bill he’s relying on to punt the blame contains no stimulus direct payments, which is the most important component of the bill for individual voters, and nothing to help cash-strapped state governments like Colorado avoid devastating budget cuts.
At long last, we honestly don’t know who Gardner thinks he’s fooling.