WASHINGTON – A crucial week on Capitol Hill that began with the Republican launch of a coronavirus aid package ended with a complete breakdown in negotiations, threatening to deepen the dangers President Donald Trump has already drawn.
The Republican-led Senate adjourned Thursday for a long weekend with no action on the COVID-19 relief, all except that a $ 600 federal unemployment benefit per week expires on Friday.
The payment was a financial lifeline for more than 20 million unemployed Americans. The United States recorded its worst quarterly economic contraction on Thursday ̵1; during a week when the national number of deaths from the virus rose to 150,000.
It was a precarious position for Trump, who scored low in the polls for his handling of a crisis that devastated Americans – and was about to get worse for many of them. Recent slides allowed Democrat Joe Biden to leave with more than 8 points in the national poll’s FiveThirtyEight average.
“When things go wrong with government policy, voters blame the president,” said Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College. “The classic case is Herbert Hoover and the Depression. Carter and Bush 41 lost re-election bids because of the much less severe economic downturn.”
“In this case, the problems are exceptionally serious and the responsibility of the president is not very clear,” he said. “A message to the GOP from the top down: Don’t be afraid. You’re very scared.”
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The Democracy-run House passed a $ 3.4 trillion bill in May extending the $ 600 weekly benefit until January. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., twice sought to force a Senate vote Thursday, but was blocked by Republicans who say the bonus is a disincentive to work and should be reduced. .
Republicans sought to vote Thursday on a proposal to reduce the benefit to 66 percent of lost wages or $ 200 a week. Schumer blocked this, calling it insufficient. When Senate Martha McSally, R-Ariz, called for a one-week extension of existing policy, Schumer dubbed the request a “stunt” that “cannot be implemented in time” and called on the Senate to pass the House. Act approved HEROES.
Republican strategist David Kochel has accused Schumer of refusing to compromise with the intent to hurt the GOP in the Nov. 3 election, when Democrats hope to seize the White House and Senate.
“Schumer is the villain here,” Kochel said. “It’s undermining the faith of the American people in Washington and Congress. It’s doing more harm than good to President Trump’s re-election chances.”
Democrats said Republicans were the ones who could do political damage to their own party leader. “Apart from being substantially stupid and incredibly cruel, Republicans are making a massive political mistake,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a former adviser to President Barack Obama. “Controlling COVID and rescuing the economy are the best ways to preserve their hold on power, but they are too focused on helping corporations and hitting people to do what is in their own interest. “
‘We are at an impasse’
A series of bipartisan negotiations this week have made no progress.
“Right now, we’re at a standstill,” Sir Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, told NBC News as he left the Capitol on Thursday.
As Senate Pat Roberts, R-Kan .: “Progress is not exactly what we are doing now.”
As Republicans accuse Democrats of refusing to negotiate in good faith, Democrats say the proposal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Is not a bad one because it lacks the support of many Republicans.
“Our colleagues on the other hand are tied in a knot,” Schumer said Thursday. “Our colleagues on the other hand can’t come to an agreement on anything.”
At the heart of the split are Republican sections that are aggravated by a mercurial Trump, who has undermined party leaders on many occasions.
McConnell unveiled a $ 1 trillion package Monday that quickly met resistance from some senators and was pronounced “semi-irrelevant” by Trump the next day. McConnell was forced to give up a piece of his own plan, which he initially seemed aware of when asked about it on Monday, to spend $ 1.75 billion on a new FBI building at Trump’s request.
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On Wednesday, Trump curbed a short-term extension of jobless aid that garnered little support from Republican senators. He added to the chaos by claiming that Democrats of supported payments were not “high enough,” even as GOP senators said they were too high.
Mentioning his difficult position for negotiations, McConnell said Wednesday on “PBS NewsHour” that about 20 Republican senators believe Congress “has already done enough” and does not want to spend more money.
“I can’t negotiate with a ghost”
By Thursday, as senators were planning to leave for the weekend, McConnell resorted to advancing a blank “shell” bill to kick-start the debate process.
“It makes the business outstanding for next week, and we can keep talking and hopefully make progress, because there is no progress elsewhere,” he said.
McConnell, whose work is on the line this fall, passed the torch to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to negotiate with the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., And Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, DN. Y. The four of them met several times this week with no apparent agreement.
A senior Democratic aide familiar with the negotiations said Pelosi and Schumer could not figure out a coherent Republican position or figure out who was responsible.
“You can’t negotiate with a ghost,” the aide said.
“Does Meadows speak for Trump? Does Mnuchin speak for Trump? Does Meadows speak for Mnuchin?” said the aide, who discussed the talks on condition of anonymity. “You don’t know what McConnell is thinking, because he doesn’t have the support of his conference.”
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, argued that both parties will be crucified for inaction: “People will only say goodbye to all their homes.”
And Meadows said the president is “on the side of the people” and will be rewarded for that.
“I think if you look at it and start focusing on politics instead of people, you’re doing the wrong thing,” Meadows told reporters Thursday during a trip to Capitol Hill. “When you’re on the side of the people who finally vote, that takes care of itself in November or whenever it can.”