Monday, May 11, 2020

Last Call For Austerity Hy-CARES-ia

House Democrats could pass a $1.2 trillion "Phase 4" COVID-19 stimulus package before the end of the month, if not sooner, at least if WIN THE MORNING 2.0™ is to be believed.

House Democrats could bring their phase 4 coronavirus relief package (CARES 2) to the floor for a vote as early as this week — but, for now at least, it's going nowhere.

The state of play: Democrats have crafted a $1.2 trillion+ package without input from the White House or Hill Republicans, congressional aides familiar with their plans tell Axios. 
GOP leadership says it's still waiting for billions of aid allocated in the first $2.2 trillion CARES Act to go out the door. 
The White House says it wants to evaluate the economic impact of reopening before passing another large stimulus package.

But House Democrats see the proposal as a way to lay down a marker of their priorities and prod congressional Republicans and the White House toward more economic relief for individuals, state and local governments, and the U.S. Postal Service. 
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her caucus also want to show voters that they're still working, despite members remaining in their districts. 
Those optics could be important politically given the Senate's decision to return to Washington last week. (House Republicans have been chiding Democrats for staying home in their districts when, they say, they should be at work.)

So what's in the new bill? Some good stuff.

Details: The legislation, which is still being drafted and is subject to change, is expected to include: 
  • Roughly $1 trillion for state and local governments. They want to split this money into separate revenue streams to ensure each community can access it.
  • More money for hospitals and COVID-19 testing.
  • Roughly $25 billion to keep the U.S. Postal Service afloat.
  • Expanded nutritional benefits, Medicaid funding and unemployment insurance (which they call “paycheck guarantee”).
  • Another round of direct payments to Americans.

If Pelosi and the Dems can get this passed, that throws down the gauntlet in an election year with tens of thousands of Americans dying per week and tens of millions losing their jobs.

But Mitch McConnell has simply ignored grand House bills before, and up until now Senate Republicans haven't been made to pay any sort of price whatsoever, remember they gained Senate seats in 2018 as Pelosi took the gavel.

Of course, that looks like it's going to change.

Republicans are increasingly nervous they could lose control of the Senate this fall as a potent combination of a cratering economy, President Trump’s handling of the pandemic and rising enthusiasm among Democratic voters dims their electoral prospects.

In recent weeks, GOP senators have been forced into a difficult political dance as polling shifts in favor of Democrats: touting their own response to the coronavirus outbreak without overtly distancing themselves from a president whose management of the crisis is under intense scrutiny but who still holds significant sway with Republican voters.

“It is a bleak picture right now all across the map, to be honest with you,” said one Republican strategist closely involved in Senate races who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss concerns within the party. “This whole conversation is a referendum on Trump, and that is a bad place for Republicans to be. But it’s also not a forever place.”

Republicans have privately become alarmed at the situation in key races where they are counting on GOP incumbents such as Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Thom Tillis (N.C.) to hold the line.

Multiple strategists said they believe GOP candidates will recover once the nation — and the presidential campaign — returns to a more normal footing, casting the November elections as a contest between Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Democratic Senate candidates in the most closely watched races also could be benefiting from a lack of scrutiny and negative ads with the nation’s attention consumed by the pandemic.

But a return to normalcy ahead of the elections is far from a given as the death toll continues to rise and economic data paints a grim picture, meaning the president’s handling of the pandemic could be the determining factor not only for his reelection but for Republicans’ ability to hold on to the Senate. In short, as goes Trump, so probably goes the Senate majority

Trump wants to be the hero here, and as with the original CARES package, it's possible that something might actually get passed.  But I also expect that as with the first CARES bill, the devil will be in the details, specifically in how the White House actually implements the bill.

They botched literally everything in the first CARES bill, ranging from the Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses being a complete disaster, to Trump demanding his signature be on the stimulus checks, delaying printing,  to the bulk of the money going to hedge funds and large corporations who turned around and announced massive layoffs.

So no, I don't expect anything like this bill to actually pass, if anything passes at all.  Odds are all but guaranteed that this bill will sit in the Senate until McConnell is replaced as majority leader and not a moment before.

Unfortunately by the time that happens, our economy may well have cratered beyond saving.

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