Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agreed to pursue a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) for the federal budget to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month. The length of the CR and other “tweaks to spending provisions and temporary extensions of expiring programs, which often ride on a stopgap” are unresolved.
This would appear to give away the leverage that Speaker Pelosi had for another coronavirus relief package, something that the Republican Senate and the White House has resisted for many months. It seems the plan now is to keep essential government services open and funded, and to go after the Republicans in the November election for their resistance to another coronavirus relief package, by having the people who are hurting economically make them pay for their obstruction at the polls. That hasn’t worked too well in the past.
The “Grim Reaper” of the Senate legislative graveyard, Mitch McConnell, after months of saying he felt no sense of urgency in pursuing another coronavirus relief package, now is putting forward a “skinny” bill that is woefully inadequate to address the scale of the economic crisis, just so Republicans can say that they too voted for a coronavirus relief package. Not all Republicans are on board, and there is doubt that McConnell can muster even a majority of the Senate among Republicans. ‘Skinny’ coronavirus relief plan grows slightly; Senate to vote Thursday (excerpt):
Senate Republicans are proposing to beef up a “skinny” coronavirus relief package by more than 100 pages, including an enhanced deduction for charitable giving, $20 billion for farmers and ranchers and money for child care and stockpiling medical supplies.
A vote on the package, which isn’t expected to advance over Democratic opposition, could come on Thursday, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican said Tuesday morning before introducing the revised bill that it would be “targeted” to the “very most urgent” needs facing Americans dealing with the continued pandemic fallout.
McConnell later on Tuesday filed a motion to end debate on the underlying legislative vehicle, a measure that has already become law separately. Using a “shell” that has already passed both chambers enables the Senate to skip a procedural step and vote on cloture Thursday.
An official price tag wasn’t available, but the new measure appears to contain more than $500 billion in assistance. While larger than an earlier draft circulated last month, that would still be substantially shy of the $1 trillion July rollout that landed with a thud among Senate Republicans.
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Despite the additions, much of the core of the bill remains the same from the skinny version circulated in August. The key features include $300 in added weekly unemployment insurance benefits through Dec. 27, as well as the additional PPP funding. It would also turn a $10 billion U.S. Postal Service loan into a grant if the agency’s cash on hand drops precipitously. And liability shield measures for businesses, schools and health care providers are preserved.
In one key omission, however, Republicans dropped a roughly $300 billion second round of direct payments to households, which would send checks or direct deposits of up to $1,200 per person, with additional funds for households with children. And none of the GOP proposals thus far would include additional funding for state and local government relief, which Democrats have been pushing hard for.
The narrower legislation is unlikely to advance in the narrowly divided Senate, where 60 votes are required to end debate and vote on the underlying bill. Majority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., the party’s top vote-counter, conceded as much on Tuesday. “We’re not going to get much help from the Democrats, so we’re not going to get 60,” he said.
As I said, there is doubt Republicans can muster even a majority of their members in the Senate. POLITICO’s Playbook reported:
The government is slated to shut down [September 30], and color us skeptical of all the ‘we-decided-not-to-shut-it-down’ talk from Speaker NANCY PELOSI and Treasury Secretary STEVEN MNUCHIN. Does anyone actually actively plan to shut down the government? If the two sides don’t get an agreement, are we to believe that after all of the back and forth and calls for a Covid relief deal, Democrats are just gonna fold and agree to a clean government funding bill? And Republicans are going to give up on their priorities, too? Just weeks before an election? We’re not predicting a shutdown. We’re just saying that we don’t think we’ve seen the last frame of this movie yet — nor do many in the Capitol and White House.
As of right now, Senate Republicans are working behind the scenes to see if they can get 51 votes for a “skinny” Covid bill that they hope to release this week. That bill will include an extension of the PPP, more enhanced unemployment and money for schools and day care. The inability to get 51 GOP votes would be a big defeat for the White House and Senate GOP leadership. At this moment, the leadership is trying to find a sweet spot in policy that would get them 51 votes — and there’s no guarantee that will happen.
This is all just Kabuki theater for partisan talking points: it takes 60 votes for cloture to advance to voting on the underlying bill, and everyone agrees that the votes are not there. McConnell is wasting everyone’s time for his partisan reindeer games, as Bloomberg describes, Stimulus Vote to Test Republican Unity Under Election Pressures:
Senate leaders will be trying to hold their parties together for a vote Thursday to advance a slimmed-down stimulus bill that Democrats have already rejected, with both sides jockeying for advantage in public perceptions two months before the election.
To be clear, Mitch McConnell could pass a coronavirus relief package today if he really wanted; it means delivering enough Republican votes, which probably do exist, to support the Democratic bill to get to 60 votes. This is anathema to McConnell whose only true skill is to obstruct. He made the GOP into the “party of no.” McConnell is neither a negotiator nor a compromiser. He does not possess the skills for “getting to yes.” He would prefer to do nothing, and to engage in a partisan blame game for his own failed leadership.
Even before the package was released, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer released a joint statement blasting the new GOP package. They said they were willing to work on a bipartisan bill but that Republicans were headed “in the wrong direction” with a bill that “doesn’t come close” to addressing the nation’s problems.
“As they scramble to make up for this historic mistake, Senate Republicans appear dead-set on another bill which doesn’t come close to addressing the problems and is headed nowhere,” Schumer and Pelosi said.
Pelosi has said her party has already offered significant compromises, including a proposed 35 percent cut to the $3.4 trillion package that House Democrats passed in May. The new $2.2 trillion bottom line is over $1 trillion more than the Republicans’ original package that they introduced in July.
There is nothing in the McConnell “skinny” bill for state and local governments, which are on the brink of fiscal crisis (McConnell earlier this year said they “should file for bankruptcy.” This is not even an option for state governments). Keep this in mind in voting for your state legislators as well. States plan for cuts as Congress deadlocks on more virus aid:
The bipartisan National Governors Association and Moody’s Analytics have cited a need for about $500 billion in additional aid to states and local governments to avoid major damage to the economy. At least three-quarters of states have lowered their 2021 revenue projections, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
While Congress has been at loggerheads, many states have pressed forward with budget cuts.
Across the country, state and local governments are facing dire budget deficits. With falling personal income tax and sales tax revenue, state budgets are looking at an estimated $500bn shortfall over the next two years. Local budgets are not looking bright either: nearly all cities with populations over 50,000 are expecting revenue shortfalls this year. ‘Economic tsunami’: US cities and states hit by Covid-19 face dire budget cuts:
State and local governments fund nearly every public good that directly touches Americans, from public schools and parks to police departments and trash collection. They employ over 18 million people, and spending by state and local governments make up about 9% of GDP.
It is fair to say that Senate Republicans are essentially “defunding the police” by forcing state and local governments into making budget cuts to public safety.
So far state and local governments have largely avoided mass layoffs, turning instead to hiring freezes and temporary furloughs to try to rein in spending while keeping employees on payroll.
This short-term remedy is about to run its course without further financial assistance. Budget cuts and layoffs are in the offing. Winter is coming.
There is nothing in the McConnell “skinny” bill for rent and mortgage relief. Trump’s temporary executive order for an eviction moratorium until the first of the year did not stop rent, late fees and penalties from accruing. It likewise did not provide any money to tenants and landlords. It simply kicked the eviction crisis down the road to January for the next Congress and president to deal with. Apparently Senate Republicans say “we’re good” with 30-40 Million People in America Are at Risk of Eviction in the dead of winter.
McConnell’s “skinny” bill does not include any money for a second round of direct stimulus checks to Americans.
McConnell’s “skinny” bill cuts the $600 supplemental unemployment benefit under the CARES Act in half, to $300 through the week ending December 27 (payments retroactive to the end of July). This $300 would likely be in addition to the $300 weekly payment authorized by Trump’s executive order in August, for which the funds are about to run out sometime this month.
The Paycheck Protection Program for business expired back on August 8. McConnell’s “skinny” bill would allow small businesses with fewer than 300 employees, and that have seen a drop of at least 35% of their revenue during the first or second quarter of 2020, to apply for a second loan from the Paycheck Protection Program. The problem with this is that if the business feels it cannot meet the requirements of the loan for retaining employees, and thus not be entitled to loan forgiveness, it will not apply for the loan. We have already seen businesses do this.
McConnell’s “skinny” bill only provides $105 billion in education funds, and conditions about two-thirds of that amount be reserved for schools that reopen for in-person instruction. This is forcing schools to reopen and placing children at risk during what medical experts believe will be a second wave of coronavirus coupled with seasonal flu this fall and winter. McConnell’s “skinny” bill also also provides money for school choice scholarships, because of course it does. “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. I mean, it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.” – Rahm Emanuel.
McConnell “skinny” bill would forgive a $10 billion loan to the US Postal Service under the March CARES Act, but does not provide additional funding for USPS. “Hey, we have an election to steal!”
And since this is McConnell’s bill, it includes the “liability protections” for employers and health care providers that he has been demanding since day one. This has been a deal breaker for Democrats.
This is not a serious attempt to deal with the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. This is legislative malpractice, bordering on criminal negligence.
Now that the Paycheck Protection Program has expired, “Small businesses have largely exhausted their federal funding and are starting to lay off workers, with many worrying about having to shut their doors for good, according to a new survey from Goldman Sachs provided exclusively to Axios. Small businesses are losing confidence in their survival. About a third of small businesses Goldman surveyed said they had already laid off workers, and 36% say if no new funding comes from Congress soon they will lay off workers or cut back hours.
The number of unemployed Americans vastly outnumbers the number of open jobs in every single state. There aren’t enough jobs for America’s unemployed. The number of unemployed Americans vastly outnumbers the number of open jobs in every single state. And the pandemic’s economic toll keeps turning furloughs into job losses — and pushing millions of people out of the workforce entirely.
A University of Chicago analysis in July said that if Congress did nothing, unemployed people would cut their spending by a third. Since unemployment benefits represented about 15% of total wages, dropping the federal supplement “could cause substantial declines in aggregate demand and potentially negative effects on the macro-economy.”
Economists are warning that the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic is now creating another recession: mass job losses, business failures and declines in spending even in industries not directly impacted by the virus. Here comes the real recession.
Republicans in Congress have abdicated their responsibility to the people they serve. Every Republican in Congress should be voted out of office in November.