Stimulus deal tangles to avoid government shutdown

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Meadows says a deal will be cut mañana.
Crédit photo: Gabriella Demczuk / Getty Images

If you’ve tried to track the progress, or lack thereof, towards a successor to the CARES Act that would provide relief and stimulus in a pandemic, you’ve probably been frustrated. With negotiations stalled and Congress in suspension, there hasn’t been much to report – and now it looks like the process is about to be delayed even further.

Let me offer you a quick recap of Congress’ meandering journey into further relief from COVID-19. On May 15, the House passed the HEROES Act, a bicameral Democratic proposal for $ 3.4 trillion in new coronavirus aid. On July 27, Senate Republicans unveiled, but did not take further action, the HEALS Act, their own $ 1 trillion bill, with White House backing, and began negotiations with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

Many key provisions of the CARES Act expired on July 31, including supplemental unemployment insurance and a moratorium on eviction for federally assisted rental housing. On August 8, President Trump signed four “ordinances” that were supposed to meet the needs associated with the expiration of the CARES Act, but they would provide marginal relief at best, amid great legal and administrative chaos. Around the same time, Pelosi and Schumer proposed to get the negotiations back on track by “sharing the difference” with Republicans on the total cost (with each side moving a trillion dollars towards each other). ), but the White House said no thanks. The last update came on August 19, when it was reported that Senate Republicans were crafting a new “skinny” proposal that moved further away from the Democratic stance and abandoned the second round of stimulus checks that had been the glue of any agreement.

Since then: crickets – until today, when Politico reported that no deal in September was underway, according to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows:

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Wednesday he was not optimistic that a new coronavirus relief deal would be reached before the end of September, providing that the president of the House, Nancy Pelosi, will use the cliff of government funding at the end of next month as leverage to secure a deal on pandemic aid …

The White House chief of staff said lawmakers on both sides had privately expressed a desire to make progress in coronavirus relief. The delay, Meadows has said he suspects, is that Pelosi is retaining his party’s base in order to secure more democratic priorities in any legislation.

Yes indeed. The old “individual members of the opposition, whom I cannot name, want to give in to us but want to say that old Nancy Pelosi will not let them” sing and dance.

Remember, it was the Democrats who made the last compromise effort on a stimulus deal. So it’s more likely that when considering a fiscal year-end interim financing bill, Pelosi is looking for leverage to force any kind of stimulus deal. And in doing so, she probably realizes that avoiding a government shutdown may just enough incentive Republican tax hawks in the Senate to vote ‘yes’ on the stimulus (at least 20 of them would be opposed to doing anything. ).

But why is the government shutdown on the table? You may recall that around the same time last year, Trump signed a two-year budget deal that would have delayed funding fights until after the 2020 election. has done was to extend the public debt limit – often a trigger for threats of closure – until November, while resetting spending caps to reflect overall priorities of both sides (defense spending for Republicans, domestic spending for Democrats). But the supply bills have yet to be passed and signed before the end of the fiscal year (September 30), and at this point the Senate has not passed a single one outside of the Committee on supply (the House passed spending bills in two large packages).

Why is that? Well, Senate Republicans want to protect vulnerable members of the Credit Committee Susan Collins and Steve Daines from any controversial votes on any amendments Democrats might come up with until they have passed Election Day safely. And so, the table is set for an omnibus “continuing resolution” to keep the federal government functioning beyond September 30. And it’s obviously the right vehicle for anyone looking to force a stimulus deal.

The bad news, of course, is that tenants facing evictions, the unemployed whose benefits have been cut, small businesses with no more access to loans, struggling state and local governments, struggling schools and really struggling election officials will have to wait another month or so to even have a good chance of relief. And those unfairly turned down will also include those millions of Americans who are wondering where that second stimulus check they were counting on will finally appear.

It’s not just a matter of timing: whenever you are dealing with a possible government shutdown, hostage-takers appear from all directions, insisting that their legislative or spending priorities really need to be taken. into account. And the hostage-takers this time around could certainly include an endangered President of the United States. So those hoping for relief or a stimulus should hold on to their butt; it could be a mad rush.

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