GOP Stimulus Plan Just Big Blank With 'Fix Economy Here' Written In Crayon
Just a day away from tomorrow's expiration of emergency unemployment benefits from the CARES act (why no, it doesn't end at the end of the month, now everyone's caught by surprise, whoops!), Republicans in the Senate and White House still don't have a plan for a new coronavirus stimulus package. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had hoped to have a bill ready to roll out Thursday, but so far the negotiations among Republicans haven't moved past the very incomplete opening offer we discussed yesterday. At the earliest, Republicans might unveil a draft of actual legislation on Monday.
Yesterday, the New York Times published a draft summary of what Republicans might sort of agree among themselves on so far, but as far as we know it may since have been replaced by a photoshopped image of Donald Trump flipping the bird, with "EXTERMINATE ALL THE BRUTES" scrawled across the bottom.
One thing the Republican negotiators have accomplished was to finally jettison Donald Trump's cherished dream of a payroll tax cut, because it wouldn't really provide any real stimulus to the economy. It would only help people who are still getting paychecks, and they might not even notice the relatively small change in take-home pay. Trump, naturally enough, took to Twitter to blame Democrats, who had nothing to do with the move, since they've been completely shut out of negotiations so far after passing their own stimulus package in the House in May, two goddamned months ago.
Again, while Democrats did oppose the idea, killing it was entirely a Republican move, because they too thought it was stupid. Nonetheless, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said maybe the cut will be included in some future bill because it's such a great idea that America really needs. There you go, your ass is covered, Steve.
With no progress to show, Mnuchin and the other White House negotiator, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, suggested yesterday that maybe the stimmy could be broken into several smaller chunks so the emergency unemployment renewal and some other stuff could be passed right away, but that idea was immediately rejected by legislative leaders from both parties. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wasn't having any of it: "No, no, no. [...] This is a package. We cannot piecemeal this."
The Washington Post notes that, with a health crisis and an economic crisis getting worse because Republicans have been sitting around with their thumbs up their asses, Donald Trump wanted to add another absolutely vital element to the bill: Making sure the crumbling FBI headquarters in downtown DC, which is "cater-cornered from Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave NW," is rebuilt in its present location so the land wouldn't become available for a competing hotel. This is a longtime wish list item for Trump, who really knows how to lead his nation through a crisis.
The Post decorously comments, "It was unclear what this had to do with the coronavirus." Still, the matter is apparently such a high national priority that Trump returned to it in his Thursday "coronavirus" press briefing, where he explained that "FBI people like to work out a lot," so wouldn't it be neat to rebuild the headquarters with a running track on the roof? But maybe that will be addressed in a later bill, just as long as he can lock in what's done with that valuable DC property before he leaves office. Time is short and there's a lot to do.
As of this morning, we should mention, the US has more than four million confirmed cases of COVID-19. More than 147,000 Americans have died.
As for where the real priorities stand: In the summary the Times published, a lot is left open. Unemployment insurance (UI) renewal is part of the plan, but Rs are dead set about the benefit continuing at $600 a week, since that would allow people to pay their rent and not be evicted when they should be hurrying out to get a job in a contracting economy. Instead,
There will be a transition period during which there will be a flat amount of extra UI per week. After that, there will be a new policy that better aligns with an individual's lost income (possibly by multiplying a person's state benefit) but will cap out at 100 percent of income.
WaPo reports that even that may be too much however, and that Republicans may cap the emergency benefits at $200 per week.
The draft summary also calls for another round of direct payments to Americans, but the amount and who would qualify aren't specified. And it would include $100 billion help for schools and higher education to reopen, as we noted yesterday; for public schools, $30 billion of that fund would be reserved for schools that open for face-to-face classes, for better spread of respiratory droplets.
The draft summary also mentions, offhandedly at the very end, that the package would include Mitt Romney's proposed TRUST Act, which would "save" Social Security and Medicare by creating a "bipartisan commission" empowered to gut both programs. Gotta worry about the budget, you know, now that the richest Americans got their tax cut. It's his fucking 2012 running mate, fucking Paul Ryan, all over again.
At this point, it's not entirely clear what rough beast will slouch toward the Senate floor next week, but it's bound to be awful. Keep your eyes open, kids. Or just check back here.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.