McConnell's answer to Schumer/Pelosi COVID-19 concessions: Eff you
It’s been 201 days since the House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act, and 63 days since the House passed their compromise $2.2 trillion bill, both of which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to consider. After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer made a massive concession Wednesday, telling McConnell they would go under $1 trillion and agree to using a bipartisan Senate proposal as the basis for negotiations, McConnell on Thursday once again rejected their outreach, doubled down on blaming them, and insisted that they should pass what he wants, and put off what Democrats want for a later date.
“Compromise is within reach,” he said Thursday morning on the Senate floor, all the while offering absolutely none of his demands for that compromise. “The solution to this impasse has been in plain sight for a long time now for anyone willing to see it,” he said, apparently meaning total Democratic capitulation to his own position. Which Schumer himself later pointed out. “We believe with good faith negotiations we could come to an agreement,” he said. But McConnell comes to the floor talking about compromise, then reiterates “a long list of Republican demands and blaming the Democrats for everything.” McConnell “does not seem inclined to compromise to actually get something done,” he added. But “what he wants to do is posture, to put partisan bills on the floor and say, take it or leave it.” While he, by the way, is doing fundraisers for the Georgia Senate seats with the people he truly cares about. The ones who can cough up $25,000 per couple for dinner.
A number of Republican senators, meanwhile, are now saying they would consider the bipartisan bill Pelosi and Schumer more or less embraced. Sens. Joni Ernst and John Cornyn said they would support talks based on it. It “represents progress,” Cornyn says, and is “moving in the right direction,” while at the same time saying he doesn’t like the state and local funding included in it. McConnell wants a relatively tiny bit of funding for states directed to education. The states need a massive influx of cash to replace lost revenue and provide basic services, not to mention ramping up an unprecedented vaccine delivery program.
State and local funding and McConnell’s insistence on a liability shield remain big sticking points. Here’s one way to tackle at least the liability shield: McConnell again insisted Thursday that “University presidents have made it clear they need legal certainty for their re-openings. That shouldn’t be partisan. Liability protections should be able to pass the Senate today.” Really, he’s arguing on behalf of corporations like Tyson which is already in court for its negligence in allowing workers to get sick and die. But Democrats can call him on it, say they’d be willing to grant a short-term shield for higher education only.
One conservative Senate Republican, John Hawley has joined basically all the Democrats, is arguing that any bill has to have another round of stimulus checks, the direct payments to everybody. The cost of that is about $300 billion, which coincidentally is what the bipartisan gang wants to give the problematic Paycheck Protection Program, which has succeeded in giving billions to lots of very big businesses and not so many small businesses, as intended. (Disclosure: Kos Media received a Paycheck Protection Program loan.) That would be smart straight-across deal, if there was the political will to cut it. Right now small business owners and their employees would probably be able to make better use of cash just showing up in their mailboxes or bank accounts than of a loan they’ve got to jump through hoops to get. There’d be a lot more economic stimulus in the direct payments, too. If Republicans refuse to do both right now, the checks are the better alternative.
There’s just a handful of legislative days left before Congress is set to leave, though that’s always subject to change. McConnell’s got them jammed up with nominations, and there’s going to be either another continuing resolution to keep government funded past December 11 or an omnibus spending bill that takes government through to September. Either way that has to happen to keep the government from shutting down in a week. It’s clear that right now McConnell is doing everything he can to jam Democrats into capitulating, holding the whole coronavirus-ravaged nation hostage to his will. Maybe some of his own senators—like David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler who would probably like to bring some cash home to Georgia—can get him to bend.