“If you said a trillion-eight, if you said 2 trillion, if you said 2 trillion-two — many numbers — I’m willing to go higher than that,” Donald Trump said over the weekend, during call-in remarks to a local Wisconsin TV station. “I will take care of that problem in two minutes.”
“That problem” is GOP senators, in case it isn’t obvious. Despite Mitch McConnell’s plans to move forward with votes on piecemeal virus relief this week, Trump continued to insist (and I do mean insist) that he “could quickly convince” recalcitrant Republicans to back a comprehensive stimulus package if only Nancy Pelosi and Steve Mnuchin could come to an agreement.
That is an “against all evidence” type of claim. There’s little (if anything) to suggest that Senate GOPers could be swayed, let alone “quickly convinced.”
Read more: Mitch And Marie
On Sunday, during an interview with ABC, Pelosi confirmed that Monday evening is effectively the deadline for Mnuchin to come back with an acceptable agreement.
“The 48 only relates to if we want to get it done before the election, which we do,” she said, referencing Saturday comments from her deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill. “But we’re saying to them we have to freeze the design on some of these things. Are we going with it or not? And what is the language.”
Later, in a letter to colleagues, Pelosi lambasted the administration’s latest edits to language around key provisions. “The White House does not appreciate the need to direct resources to culturally competent contact tracing,” she chided. “Instead of recognizing the need for a strategic plan, they have changed words including ‘shall’ to ‘may,’ ‘requirement’ to ‘recommendation,’ and ‘strategic plan’ to ‘strategy.'”
That’s a bit of an eye-roller, but read it again. Those edits are, in fact, material. Changes like that could render entire portions of a massive spending bill optional and/or discretionary. That isn’t what you want when you’re talking about relief funds for a public health crisis.
Those tweaks went well beyond the “light touch” approach The White House promised to take. The edits, Pelosi charged, make the money “a slush fund for the administration which ‘may’ grant or withhold rather than a prescribed, funded plan.”
Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, accused McConnell of presiding over a “sham” with planned votes on targeted relief.
“It was inadequate just up and down the line on state and local funding, on testing, on the need to open schools safely, on the census, on protecting workers who need health care benefits, and I could go on and on,” Schumer said on a call with the media Sunday. “So that is just a sham. It’s a stunt by McConnell when he’s blocked everything that’s happened so far. And in terms of getting an agreement, he’s even said he wouldn’t go along with what Donald Trump wanted.”
This sets the stage for a convoluted week, to say the least. It sounds as though Pelosi wants Mnuchin to commit to acceptable language on Monday, prior to McConnell’s scheduled Senate votes on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Ultimately, Trump may end up having to prove that he can, in fact, “take care of” the “problem” in the Senate.
Perhaps the president knows something the public doesn’t about how committed McConnell’s soldiers are to holding the line, but somehow I doubt it. It’s not that the president isn’t persuasive, it’s just that bridging the gap between $500 billion (with “b”) and $2 trillion (with a “t”) seems like an impossible ask. The idea that Trump can construct that bridge and then herd dozens of irritable, reluctant, cats across it in the next two weeks seems far-fetched in the extreme. It’s not even clear where McConnell would start if he wanted to build consensus around that kind of package.
Unfortunately, this is going to dominate the tape all week. The data calendar is light, as in: Outside of housing, there’s really nothing on it. The stimulus headline hockey will be maddening (or mind-numbing) for traders. New lockdowns in Europe alongside what is sure to be incessant media coverage of rising caseloads stateside will make it even worse.
Full Sunday letter from Pelosi
Dear Democratic Colleague,
On Friday, the number of coronavirus infections reached a staggering 69,000 cases, the highest daily number in months. As infections soar and deaths increase, we must urgently act to protect the lives and livelihoods of the American people.
Coronavirus relief negotiations proceeded over the weekend, with Secretary Mnuchin sending awaited language on testing. While there was some encouraging news, much work remains.
The White House had assured Democrats that they would accept our language on testing with a “light touch.” Unfortunately, as the committees of jurisdiction review the White House’s language provision-by-provision, it has become clear that these changes are not a light touch but instead, a deep dive.
These unacceptable changes include, but are not limited to, the White House’s refusal to commit to a science-based national plan for testing, tracing, and treatment to crush the virus. The White House has removed 55 percent of the Heroes Act’s language for testing, tracing, and treatment. Especially disappointing was the elimination of measures to address the virus’s disproportionate and deadly impact on communities of color. The White House does not appreciate the need to direct resources to culturally competent contact tracing.
Instead of recognizing the need for a strategic plan, they have changed words including “shall” to “may,” “requirement” to “recommendation,” and “strategic plan” to “strategy.” These changes make the funding a slush fund for the Administration which “may” grant or withhold rather than a prescribed, funded plan to crush the virus. It is important to note the impact in terms of the disparity facing communities of color: a Latino child is eight times more likely to have to go to the hospital because of COVID-19 than a white child, and a Black child is five times more likely. We want all of our children protected.
Children are further affected negatively in the White House’s refusal to expand the Child Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Tax Credit, and the Earned Income Tax Credit, while continuing tax benefits for some of the wealthiest in America. This is especially disappointing in light of reports this weekend that poverty has grown by six million in the past three months as CARES benefits are exhausting, meaning that eight million Americans are now living in poverty. Our proposal would reduce childhood poverty significantly.
Children are also shortchanged by the refusal of the Administration to increase the child care provisions. If children are not able to go to school, parents are not able to go to work. Child care is therefore essential. At the same time, everyone wants children to be able to go back to school safely. This takes money, and the Republicans are still falling short on what is needed to provide the separation, ventilation, sanitation, and especially, funding for teachers and support staff to enable this to happen.
Funding for schools comes largely from state and local government, and the Administration continues to fail to meet the well-documented need for funds to protect frontline workers in health care, first responders, sanitation, transportation, food workers, teachers and others, and to prevent service cuts to struggling communities.
Sadly for our country, the Administration wants to undermine the Census, unless we can act legislatively. The Administration and the President’s appointees to the Courts have decided in his favor to hold up the count in the Census. At the same time, the Administration refused to allow time for the count, once hopefully resumed, to be accurately reported to the Congress.
These are a few of the issues that were discussed this weekend, but they are not exhaustive of our concerns. We are hoping to find common ground.
I am optimistic that we can reach agreement before the election. To that end, we are writing language as we negotiate the priorities, so that we are fully prepared to move forward once we reach agreement.
Updates will be ongoing as our Chairs continue to review language for Liability and OSHA, small business, health care providers, and elections. Hopefully we will have more progress to report on our conference call tomorrow.
Thank you for your leadership. Stay safe.