No Stimulus Before Election. That's Not Important, Is It?
Sure, the coronavirus is roaring back and setting new records for the number of infections, and that means continued, probably deepening, unemployment. With less than a week to go to Election Day, however, it doesn't look like the White House is in any mood to agree to any new stimulus bill. And the Senate, having rushed through the new Supreme Court justice Donald Trump wanted, went into recess and headed home Monday. For all that, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin did hold a 52-minute phone conversation Monday about getting a new stimmy done anyway, according to Pelosi's Deputy Chief of Staff Drew Hammill. Keep hope alive?
The sticking point, according to Pelosi, is whether the White House will actually agree to language about a national coronavirus testing program. That could be a pretty big if, given this weekend's admission by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that the administration isn't trying to control the virus. Monday night, Pelosi told MSNBC's Chris Hayes that it's not a dollar amount so much as a commitment to testing and contact tracing:
About 10 days ago they finally said, "Okay, we'll go along with the testing plan. We're just going to make a light touch on the language."
The light touch was taking out 55 percent of the language, changing "must" – we are saying you "shall," the Administration "shall" do this [...] – [to] the Administration "may" do this. "Requirements" became "recommendations" and the like, so that the money would be just, again, a slush fund for the President so that he may do this, or may do that, rather than requiring it.
Pelosi said it initially seemed like a "power play," and that the administration first "made a fuss," then eventually "came back and said, 'All right, we're there with you.' But they still have not come back." She said that even if the administration isn't ready to agree on legislative language, there's still time to come to an agreement before the election, now couldn't they?
Pelosi also dismissed the idea that she should stop insisting on certain Democratic priorities and accept a deal from the White House: "People said, 'Accept the deal.' And I was like, 'What deal? They haven't agreed to any of this.'"
For his part, Trump today told reporters there simply won't be a deal before the election because Pelosi is stubbornly holding out for more money that would supposedly only help "badly run" Democratic state and local governments, which is of course bullshit. (Astonishingly, neither of the stimmy bills the House has passed specifies the money would only go to Democratic jurisdictions, which would be kind of illegal.) But Trump did promise that "After the election we'll get the best stimulus package you've ever seen," probably coupled with that healthcare plan he's been promising in just two more weeks since he announced his candidacy in 2015.
US stocks dropped Monday as the pandemic continues to spread, with no hint of any progress on a stimulus package; by midday Tuesday, they were still sluggish.
Fortunately, the White House has a strategy to blame Pelosi for everything, even as she and Mnuchin appear to still be continuing their talks (we cannot rule out the possibility, however, that he's just telling her how much he hates his job). Neither side has exactly declared the talks dead, but White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Fox Business that "chances are slim" for an agreement because Pelosi wants too much, though McEnany didn't specify what, instead pitching once more the default GOP talking point that Pelosi wants too many things unrelated to COVID-19 relief. "If we're providing stimulus relief for the American people, it should be just that. [...] So it's on her." Excellent point, since what does "testing and contact tracing" have to do with the coronavirus?
Regardless of the election outcome, it's unclear whether the prospects for a stimulus bill after the election are any better. If Joe Biden becomes president, Republicans in the lame-duck Senate may simply decide to get a head start on hobbling his administration, regardless of whether they hold the Senate or not. And if Trump wins, the pandemic will be officially over and there will be no need for any economic stimulus, since anyone not doing well while he's president is a loser.
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.