All Eyes on Mitch McConnell as GOP Erupts on Stimulus Bill
Author: Greg Valliere
July 22, 2020
A STIMULUS BILL WON’T WIN ENACTMENT in July — which means the shaky economy won’t get a booster shot until next month. A major obstacle, ironically, is that Republicans can’t agree among themselves; a fight with Democrats is several days away.
PUSHBACK AT LUNCH: White House officials got an earful at yesterday’s Senate Republican lunch. There’s growing opposition from deficit hawks (especially in the House) to spending another $1 trillion-plus, and the details of this bill are contentious.
AFTER YESTERDAY’S VENTING, it became apparent that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs to write a bill, fast. That’s because his GOP colleagues are simply dealing with trial balloons and vague proposals; they need to pass something and begin negotiations with the Democrats, who sense a political opening.
THE DEMOCRATS WANT A $3 TRILLION BILL, which they won’t get, but they’re prepared to eviscerate the GOP for letting unemployment benefits lapse at the end of this month. Public opinion overwhelmingly favors more stimulus — and besides, the deficit has never bothered the Democrats, so they’re all-in on a big package.
THE DEFICIT DOESN’T BOTHER DONALD TRUMP EITHER: He desperately needs a stimulus bill, and he’s not particularly concerned with the details.
IT WAS CLEAR YESTERDAY that Trump’s veto threats are just bluster; the White House seemingly abandoned a threat to oppose funding for testing, tracing and the Centers for Disease Control. And it appears that Trump would sign a bill without a payroll tax cut, which he said just days ago must be in the final measure.
STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: Just as former House Speaker John Boehner needed Democrats a decade ago, Trump and McConnell may need Democrats now if GOP lawmakers balk on an expensive bill. The Democrats will extract a price: far more spending than a measly $1 trillion.
WE STILL THINK THE McCONNELL BILL SHOULD PASS in the Senate next week, with support from a handful of Democrats, which should launch negotiations with the House over their aspirational measure. Meanwhile, 20 million Americans probably will lose their benefits before a final bill is enacted; the real deadline for Congress is Aug. 7, when their summer vacation begins.
PLAYING WITH FIRE: If this bill bogs down, there’s little doubt that Republicans would receive a majority of the blame. The Democrats can say they passed their bill on May 15 — and then the Republicans stalled. GOP chances of retaining the Senate could slip further if this drags well into August.
TRUMP HAS SEEN THE POLLS: His performance in yesterday’s Coronavirus briefing was reasonably solid; he knows his re-election is now in doubt. So he stayed on message (other than inexplicably offering best wishes to Ghislaine Maxwell).
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