FLAWLESS! Republicans Reach (Partial) Agreement (With Other Republicans) On New Coronavirus Bill

With the emergency unemployment benefits from the CARES Act just 9 days away from expiring, Republicans in the Senate and White House announced last night they had reached an "agreement in principle" on a new coronavirus stimulus bill. Except the "agreement" doesn't even address what to do about the expiring unemployment assistance, or about protections against evictions for people who have lost their jobs. But at least they've figured out how much money they want to spend on reopening schools and for coronavirus testing, so that's something at least. As the New York Timespoints out, pointedly even, the partial "agreement" is only among Republicans, who aren't even close to talking to Democrats yet. It's kind of a longstanding thing with them.

And the clock keeps ticking on those expiring protections for jobless people.

America now has a lot more jobless folks, too; the new weekly unemployment figures are out, showing 1.4 million new claims for unemployment during the week that ended July 18. That's 109,000 more new claims than in the prior week, marking the first uptick in new jobless claims since the record-setting job implosions back in March. Given the number of businesses having to close or cut back due to the renewed outbreaks of COVID-19, that increase in unemployment is hardly a surprise.

Maybe Congress should do something about it. The House already passed a new stimulus bill, in fucking May (MAY!!), so Republicans in the Senate might want to at least start negotiations before everything falls apart. More than everything already has.

But the three days of intense intra-Republican battling at least resulted in a step toward action that should have been taken two months ago but was put on hold while Republicans decided to see if the economy came roaring back, via magick or wizardry of some kind, after states started reopening. Instead, the coronavirus came roaring back, and here we are. The tentative Republican agreement would allocate $100 billion to schools, give states $16 billion for testing and contact tracing, and include a new round of direct payments to Americans, although the amount is still being determined. Unfortunately, there's nothing in the proposal yet about extending the $600 per week of emergency unemployment, because Republican senators who'd like to be reelected are for it, while rightwing fiscal hawk assholes like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee are aghast at the thought that anyone might be deterred from jumping into the thriving job market by getting enough money to pay the rent and buy food. Why yes, all three of them were reelected in 2018 and won't have to answer to voters any time soon.

Mitch McConnell, perhaps invigorated by an especially tasty bite of lettuce, slowly eased his head out of his carapace and reassured America a new stimulus bill was on the way, eventually, explaining, "We're hopeful we'll be able to get there. [...] This discussion has just really begun in earnest."

As for the details of the tentative plan, the money for schools would be split into two chunks; $30 billion for colleges and universities, and $70 billion for K-12 schools. And because it's Republicans we're talking about here, fully half the funds for public schools would be reserved for districts that open with full, in-person classes, regardless of how bad local infection rates may be.

The other agreed-upon spending would include $16 billion for coronavirus testing and contact tracing, plus $4 billion to help with "global distribution of a vaccine." The Times helpfully points out that those amounts represent a grand compromise: Senate Rs initially proposed more money, while the White House "at first balked at including any." Let's repeat that: With coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths all rising rapidly, Donald Trump originally wanted ZERO funding for testing. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) told Senate colleagues after a Tuesday meeting at the White House that he wondered whether he was "on acid" when he heard that.

Also not addressed in the "agreement" is Trump's weird obsession, a payroll tax cut. No Republicans are especially in favor of it, because it wouldn't be noticed by most people, it would reduce funding for Social Security and Medicare, and perhaps most important in an election year, it would only help those who still have jobs. But nobody's willing to tell the Great Man his cherished idea is stupid, so it may make it into a final bill in some form.

The expiring unemployment benefits are starting, finally, to make some Republican senators sweat. (Did we mention House Dems passed an extension, through next January, IN MAY? Let us mention it again, and every day between now and the election.) Some Rs even

suggested at one point Wednesday that they might pursue a short-term extension of the enhanced unemployment benefits expiring next week to buy more time to reach a final agreement. Even that idea sparked infighting: Conservatives loathe the extra $600-per-week benefit, regarding it as a disincentive to work, and the White House chief of staff panned it.

Republican senators facing voters this fall seem remarkably willing to bend a little on their never-spend-anything stance, at least until there's a Democrat in office to accuse of profligacy. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said you can't worry about deficits in a crisis, especially if it looks bad in the polls:

People are concerned about that, but I also tell them in World War II, while we were fighting Hitler, we weren't thinking about how much it costs. We were thinking about survival, and that's my first priority here.

Especially political survival. It's a big deal! Texas's other senator, Ted Cruz, who won't be up for reelection until 2024, said full speed ahead on opening the economy, because apparently there are still some ICU beds available somewhere in the state:

I think [a] sure way to lose the Senate, and elect Joe Biden, is to allow Democratic politicians to keep the country shut down and keep 40 million people out of work.

Cruz apparently hasn't heard about any reasons why businesses might be shutting down, even without being told they have to. Must be Democrats telling people to stop going to restaurants. Speaking of which:

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer just couldn't believe the Republicans are being such idiots, and wished the GOP would just get their shitty proposal together so Democrats could fix it and pass a stimmy:

The Republican Party is so disorganized, chaotic and unprepared that they can barely cobble together a partisan bill in their own conference[.]

Schumer was so very astonished he might say hell or damn later. But he has a point: You idiots have spent long enough with your thumbs up your asses, so would you please just get moving? There's kind of a crisis here.

[NYT / WaPo / CNN / WaPo]

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Doktor Zoom

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.


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