Emergency House Session Has Two Major Implications
Author: Greg Valliere
August 17, 2020
NANCY PELOSI’S CALL to re-convene the House later this week has two major implications — it reflects growing fears of a disputed election this fall, and it raises prospects that a stimulus bill could emerge from the crisis over the U.S. Postal Service.
THE DECISION TO BRING THE HOUSE BACK to Washington comes after an unprecedented level of constituent anxiety over the post office, as deliveries have slowed in the wake of changes at the USPS. Whether it involves prescriptions by mail or the election, voters are confused and angry.
THIS CRISIS — AND IT IS A CRISIS — intensified after the postal service warned 46 states that it could not guarantee that it could handle ballots in a timely manner. And it followed an astonishing statement from President Trump, who said he doesn’t want to make it easier to vote by mail.
TRUMP WALKED THAT BACK after a predictable uproar, but he now favors increased funding for the USPS only if it’s part of a larger bill that includes a wide package of stimulus — $1,200 checks, business assistance, liability protection, money for schools, etc. — that could be revived later this month.
THE HOUSE IS EXPECTED TO VOTE for post office assistance of up to $25 billion; when the negotiations stalled earlier this month, the number was about $10 billion. Assuming the Senate also comes back to town, both sides could agree on enough money to keep the post office operating through next year, with extra funding for ballots.
COULD THIS LEAD TO A STIMULUS BILL? Stay tuned — several Democrats said this weekend that postal funding could be wrapped into a bigger package. Trump certainly wants a deal, and lawmakers are getting an earful from constituents who are hurting badly as federal aid expires. We still expect a deal, but it may not come until late August or early September.
EVEN IF A STIMULUS BILL PASSES, real damage has been inflicted on voter confidence ahead of the election. Trump’s assertion that this will be the most rigged election in history has had an impact, with voters unsure whether they should mail in ballots, while expressing anxiety about standing in long voting lines in this era of Covid-19.
THUS WE REITERATE LAST WEEK’S PREDICTION that there’s a growing chance of a disputed election. A postponed election is very unlikely, but we think it could be many days after Nov. 3 before the outcome is clear. And the threat of litigation after a close election is very real. The Supreme Court may decide the outcome.
THIS COULD BE MOOT IF THE ELECTION IS A BLOWOUT, but recent polls show a tightening race — especially yesterday’s results from a CNN survey that showed Biden’s lead down to 4 points. Other polls give him a larger margin, but if the numbers tighten further this fall, which we expect, a disputed election will look even more likely.
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