Sunday, May 24, 2020

Mitch Heads Home

The House passed a $3 trillion COVID-19 package this month. As the NY Times Editorial Board lays out, the Senate GOP response was "absolutely nothing" and they've adjourned for Memorial Day recess for the week.

After three weeks in session, the United States Senate emptied out again on Friday, as lawmakers fled Washington for the Memorial Day recess. They left without even pretending to tackle the next round of coronavirus relief.

This is how the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, wants it. Many Republicans, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, are reluctant to embrace more government spending, so Mr. McConnell is taking a wait-and-see approach.

The Democratic-led House passed a $3 trillion relief package on May 15. That bill was imperfect but it was something. Mr. McConnell, on the other hand, has repeatedly said he’s in no hurry for the Senate to offer its own proposal. He has put talks on an indefinite pause, saying he wants to see how the economy responds to previous relief measures. The Senate may get around to putting together a plan when it reconvenes next month. Or perhaps it will in July.

This course of inaction is unsustainable. Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, warned this week that the economic damage from the pandemic could stretch through the end of next year. Over the past nine weeks, new jobless claims have hit nearly 39 million, and the official unemployment rate is expected to approach 20 percent this month. Behind these numbers are real people suffering significant hardship. The Senate’s sluggish response in addressing this suffering has begun to discomfit even some of Mr. McConnell’s fellow Republicans.

“I think June doesn’t need to come and go without a phase four,” said Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi on Wednesday, referring to the next round of aid.

Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado and Susan Collins of Maine — both facing tough re-election races — have been especially eager to assure constituents that they take their pain seriously. “Congress has a tremendous responsibility to help mitigate the impact of this crisis on our states and our local communities and on the families they serve,” Ms. Collins said in a floor speech on Wednesday. “We must not wait. We should act now.”

Republicans should keep the pressure on Mr. McConnell and prepare to intensify their push for action when the Senate reconvenes.

When the Senate reconvenes in June, the only thing on the agenda is Sen. Lindsey Graham's mass subpoenas of former Obama administration officials and FBI agents to spend the summer rehashing the "Obamagate" show.

There's no phase 4 coming. Graham made that clear at the beginning of the month.  "Over our dead bodies" would unemployment extensions pass, remember?

Mitch McConnell doesn't want to lose the Senate or the White House.  But he's willing to risk both to make sure Biden gets stuck with trying to recover from the worst depression in US history.

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