How Is Nancy Pelosi Being A Terrible Monster Today?
Wow, whole bunch of people on Twitter are mad at Nancy Pelosi today because she supports the short-term, bipartisan coronavirus stimulus package put forth by House and Senate moderates this week. But Nancy, you monster, they're saying, you turned down the White House's $1.8 trillion offer, which had a new round of $1,200 stimmy checks and $400 a week unemployment payments! All because you got too greedy, and now you're signing on to a proposal that's half the amount, $300 a week emergency unemployment, and doesn't include a new round of direct payments. Thanks a lot, you suck and the Democrats suck and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sucks too because she agreed to your being speaker when Dems took the House back in 2018 and everything SUCKS.
Gentle readers, let us discuss this a bit before you accuse us of being neoliberal shills carrying water for the weak terrible centrist Pelosi, who sucks and now we do too. There are a few points to consider, so at least when you decide we're neoliberal shills carrying water for a weak terrible centrist, it'll be with those points in mind. Also, here is Pelosi's presser today, in which she firmly rejected having foolishly turned down a "better" deal before the election. Don't freak over the runtime; we've cued it up to the actual start of the presser, nearly an hour into the feed.
Let's get a few things clear about that pre-election "offer" from the White House, 'kay?
It Wasn't A Firm Plan Yet
Let's remember the genesis of all this: Trump told his negotiators, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, to offer a great big new stimmy plan just days after he announced on Oct. 6 that there would be no more negotiations on a stimulus until "immediately after I win" the election, when he would magically rescue the economy. The markets tanked, and suddenly he was interested in a deal, maybe even something bigger than the $2.2 trillion package House Democrats passed in September.
But there were big problems with what Mnuchin and Meadows were proposing. The White House proposal had the $1,200 check and a pared-down emergency unemployment benefit, but it lacked any funds for strapped state, local, and tribal governments. (Surprisingly, red states need help too.) Pelosi also insisted on including a national COVID-19 testing plan (more on that in a moment). Worst of all, and a flat out deal killer, the White House insisted on a poison pill, Mitch McConnell's near-total grant of immunity for corporations whose negligence led to employees or customers contracting the virus. Go reread our piece on just how awful that proposal is, OK?
Mnuchin said he was open to the testing plan Pelosi wanted, but the draft he came back with was so watered down that it was no plan at all, as Pelosi explained on MSNBC on Oct. 26:
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.
After Pelosi told Mnuchin that wasn't gonna fly, he eventually said, "'All right, we're there with you," but he never came back with a revised draft at all. Pelosi noted that people telling her to just accept the White House deal had it all wrong, because there WAS no White House deal: "People said, 'Accept the deal.' And I was like, 'What deal? They haven't agreed to any of this.'"
Plus, the liability shield stayed in, although the White House "offer" never really got any farther than a vague outline anyway.
Mitch McConnell Killed The Deal That Didn't Exist, Too
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was only, is only, and will only be interested in that liability shield. Every version of his piddling non-starter $500 billion deal includes it, with other details negotiable. While Mnuchin and Pelosi were negotiating, McConnell was already shooting down the outline they were discussing, because far-right Republicans would never go for it — even though, if the immunity plan had been taken out, it might pass with support from Democrats and a small number of moderate Rs.
In mid-October, McConnell told reporters that whatever Pelosi and Mnuchin worked out, it was a non-starter for him: "You're correct we're in discussions with the secretary of the Treasury and the speaker about a higher amount. [...] That's not what I'm going to put on the floor."
At the same time, Trump dismissed McConnell's talk of budget hawks balking, and bragged that Republican opposition to the $1.8 trillion idea would vanish if he told them to pass it, and maybe something even bigger, because he likes making promises.
Now, perhaps if Pelosi had given more ground, the White House "offer" would have become more tangible. But she didn't walk away from negotiations; Team Trump just stopped talking about stimulus as the election came nearer.
This Smaller Package Is A Short-Term Plan, Not The Last Word
Again, let's be clear: Nancy Pelosi didn't "turn down" a great deal and then accept a much worse deal. There wasn't any deal to turn down. Now that Joe Biden will be taking office, one of his top priorities will be a real, comprehensive stimulus package, and a testing (and contact-tracing, and quarantine) plan. But for the moment, the $908 billion plan is attractive as a starting point for a short-term stimmy that can pass quickly. It really does have Republicans in both houses saying they'll vote for it, which wasn't the case with earlier negotiations at all. As a stopgap before Biden takes office, it provides unemployment help (not enough) and aid to states and cities as well as small businesses. Maybe cash payments could be added in further negotiations.
And perhaps most crucially, it doesn't include McConnell's deal-nuking liability shield. The outline so far calls for "short term Federal protection from Coronavirus related lawsuits with the purpose of giving states time to develop their own response," which would be temporary, and unlike McConnell's liability shield, it's not yet cast in legislative language, so there's a chance to negotiate its final shape, though of course our preference would be to take it out altogether. Here's that overview of what's in the proposal:
The key thing here is that we have a new president on the way, and he's serious about a comprehensive stimulus package. The deal on the table right now will provide far more relief than had looked forthcoming before the election, so Pelosi's right to be backing it.
OK, NOW you can call us neoliberal shills, and we still have an Open Thread on the way.
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.