A convoluted, mishmash of headlines bombarded anyone who was paying attention on Wednesday, as key lawmakers in Washington inched towards some manner of compromise on virus relief and Jerome Powell spent another day telling Congress how important it is for them to deliver fresh aid.
Steve Mnuchin and Donald Trump are inclined to support another version of the $500 billion bill Mitch McConnell tried to float in September and October. In his remarks to the House, Mnuchin called for more Paycheck Protection Program funding, while Powell emphasized state and local government assistance, a Democratic priority that the Trump administration has repeatedly sought to water down.
Later in the session, stocks responded favorably, Treasury yields hit session highs, and the dollar slipped when Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer said they “believe the bipartisan framework introduced by senators [Tuesday] should be used as the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations” on stimulus. The price tag on that framework is $908 billion.
“We and others will offer improvements, but the need to act is immediate and we believe that with good-faith negotiations we could come to an agreement,” the two top Democrats imagined. Mnuchin claims he’s going to take a closer look at the proposal but, again, McConnell will be inclined to lowball everyone, all while claiming (ludicrously) to be in a hurry. He did concede Wednesday that Democrats have demonstrated “good faith.” One wonders how he assesses his own behavior in that regard.
Anyway, it appears we’re back in a situation where consensus is starting to coalesce around the notion that another stimulus deal is actually possible in the near future, and perhaps won’t have to be forcibly extracted from Mitch by Joe Biden and Janet Yellen after the US has already succumbed to a double-dip recession.
In remarks to reporters, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that after speaking to McConnell himself, both said it “would be optimal if we could get to an agreement by this weekend [and] consider it as early as Wednesday or Thursday next week.”
Again, it’s convoluted in the extreme. And you can hardly blame investors for taking a kind of Ron Burgundy “I don’t believe you” approach to this hopelessly partisan charade.
Meanwhile, if you’re wondering whether Donald Trump is serious about withholding funding for the US military in order to avenge what he insists are wrongs committed against him by the same social media platforms which helped get him elected in 2016, the answer is yes, according to Kayleigh McEnany, who held a comically offensive press briefing on Wednesday.
She cited Twitter not taking action against “other world leaders making calls for genocide” and also rolled out an example of misinformation emanating from Beijing while rationalizing a prospective Trump veto.
Her point, to the extent she can cite additional evidence, is valid. If Trump can be flagged, then other world leaders should be flagged too.
But anybody who’s studied propaganda knows that “Whataboutism” is a tried-and-true tactic when you can’t justify something on the merits. Nobody is arguing that China should be allowed to spread misinformation about COVID-19. The question was, specifically: “Is the president seriously considering and talking about vetoing the NDAA over Section 230?” Obviously, it is absurd for the The President of the United States to temporarily defund the US military because of a grudge against Twitter. That’s an indefensible position. So, instead of answering the question, McEnany essentially asked: “Well, what about Chinese propaganda?”
Congress doesn’t sound like they’re going to countenance Trump’s antics on this one, though. Both Pelosi and McConnell are moving ahead with the defense bill in their chambers. Neither version contains 230 legislation.
During the same briefing, McEnany called COVID-19 inoculations “The Trump Vaccine.” That’s apparently some kind of proper noun now. “It’s having a businessman as president,” she said. “It’s ‘The Trump Vaccine.'”
According to the latest CDC update, 2,461 Americans died on December 1 from COVID-19. Assuming that figure isn’t subsequently revised, it marks the second deadliest day since April, and one of the deadliest days of the entire pandemic.
I’d imagine there are some holiday “distortions” at work, but the point is that an average of at least 1,500 Americans are dying every, single day from the virus.
When asked if the White House is setting a good example by planning Christmas parties when public health officials have advised the public against such gatherings, McEnany said “if you can loot, burn down burnings, [and] engage in protests, you can also go to a Christmas party.”
When I say “comically offensive,” I mean it. It was highly offensive. But undeniably funny. Kind of like the entire Trump presidency.