Mitch McConnell Says No To Mitch McConnell's Stimulus Plan Because Dems Agreed To Mitch McConnell's...
Stimmy's fallen down the well! Get help!
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to set horrifying new records — Wednesday saw 2,777 deaths, 205,000 new cases of COVID-19, and more than 100,000 people hospitalized, new highs in all three categories — and the worsening conditions result in new shutdowns to control the virus, Republicans have mostly continued to shrug at the human and economic devastation and plan indoor holiday parties so more people can become infected. This week, however, moderate members of both parties put forward a proposal for a $908 billion coronavirus stimulus plan that might stand a better chance of passing than previous bills, because for once, there's at least limited Republican participation.
Unfortunately, it's likely to be extremely limited Republican participation, since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected it Tuesday. Even so, there may be enough bipartisan support to pass it as a stopgap, if enough Republicans can be brought on board.
The compromise bill, put forward by the House's "Problem Solvers Caucus" and with Senate support from Democrat-ish Joe Manchin and Republican-ish Sen. Mitt Romney, would provide new funding for small business loans, for vaccine distribution, and even $160 billion in funding to help out state, local, and tribal governments. It would also offer a pared-down extension of emergency unemployment benefits, although that would only be an extra $300 a week over state benefits, compared to the $600/week in the last significant stimmy bill, the CARES Act, passed way back in March. Again: Mitch McConnell had supported the $300 a week in extra unemployment benefits, but now that other people support it, he doesn't anymore. We just want to make that clear.
Also, every time we hear "Problem Solvers Caucus" we immediately think of Welcome to the Dollhouse and the little nerd girl's "Special People Club," and now you will too.
The bill isn't anything close to what's needed, and it falls far short of the HEROES Act that House Democrats passed in May. Nonetheless, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer signed on to the $900 billion compromise bill yesterday, arguing it would be a good place to start negotiations on a stopgap bill that could get help to Americans now , so the country doesn't have to wait until Joe Biden's inauguration Jan. 20. Biden has already said any stimmy passed during the Dead Parrot session (that's what I'm calling it since "lame duck" is ableist) would be a "down payment" on a larger stimulus that his transition team is working on.
McConnell, however, is pushing a far more limited "stimulus" bill, one more iteration of the $500 billion outline he's touted for months now, and which was already rejected by Democrats because 1) it was wholly inadequate to the scope of people's needs; 2) it lacked any unemployment relief or aid to state and local governments; and 3) it was painfully obvious that the puny amounts of economic help were mostly a sugar-coating for McConnell's real priority, a promise of near-total immunity from liability for corporations whose negligence infected employees or customers with the virus.
Not much has changed in McConnell's "new" offer; this one does include a slight extension of eligibility for some unemployment benefits. That doesn't include funding for a new round of emergency federal unemployment payments above state benefits. And even worse, the extension of other programs would only last for a month, and would only be available to new applicants and people who haven't yet exhausted their benefits under the CARES Act. Sucks to be you, people. As Slate's Jordan Weissman notes,
It essentially looks like McConnell is trying to wind down the unemployment programs Congress created in March, while avoiding some politically damaging holiday headlines right before the Georgia Senate runoffs in early January.
McConnell's proposal also includes a favorite idea of Donald Trump, the absolutely insane restoration of making business meals 100 percent tax deductible; reducing the deductibility of business meals to 50 percent is the one thing they did to "pay for" the billionaires' tax cut in 2017.
And worst of all, Weissman points out, if McConnell gets his Precious, the liability shield for irresponsible businesses that helped spread the pandemic, then Democrats will have given him the one thing he really wants from a stimulus bill, while getting only token amounts of help for Americans:
if he were to get it, there's little reason to assume he'd eventually agree to pass another round of relief in the new year under the Biden administration. (At the moment, all he has merely promised is that: "After the first of the year there's likely to be a discussion about an additional package of some size depending upon what the new administration wants to pursue." A discussion. Right.) Hence why passing this bill might actually be worse than doing nothing: It would take any remaining pressure off him to act, while leaving states and the jobless to dangle indefinitely.
The prospects for a new stimmy remain, as they say, in flux. McConnell and Pelosi talked today for the first time since the election, although it looks like McConnell remains committed to his malnourished stimmy proposal as of right now. One maybe-good thing about the $900 billion compromise bill is that its summary only calls for "short term Federal protection from Coronavirus related lawsuits with the purpose of giving states time to develop their own response," rather than the more radical liability shield McConnell wants; we'd want to see more details on what exactly that would look like, though.
Stay tuned! With the possibility of a government shutdown coming if a short-term spending bill isn't passed by next Friday, December 11, we're probably in for yet another weird week. Maybe Senate Republicans will find a nice War on Christmas fight to help things along.
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