This can mean only two things.
Either McConnell thinks a Trump loss is inevitable. Or McConnell wants to make a Trump loss inevitable.
You don’t think Ben Sasse is the only Republican in the chamber who feels this way, do you?
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that he would not put a potential $1.8 trillion+ deal struck by Democrats and the Trump administration on the Senate floor. “My members think half a trillion dollars, highly targeted is the best way to go,” he said…
The biggest hurdle is Senate Republicans, who have been left out of negotiations and who seem uninterested in comprehensive stimulus. One explanation is that McConnell is laser-focused on SCOTUS, but it’s unclear why he won’t walk and chew stimulus at the same time — particularly given how much Trump wants a deal before the election…
“I’m proposing what we think is appropriate,” said McConnell when asked about Trump’s “Go big or go home!!!” directive on stimulus. McConnell issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the Senate’s “first order of business” when it returns on Oct. 19 will be to vote on a $500 billion targeted bill — a quarter of what both the WH and Democrats are proposing.
If you’re thinking that he’s bluffing in order to negotiate Pelosi downward, remember that Trump is trying to negotiate Pelosi upward. “I would take more. I would go higher,” he said this morning on Fox Business when asked about Pelosi’s offer. The president’s eager to show voters that the GOP is willing to be more generous in rescuing them from dire financial straits than even Democrats are.
So why the hell is McConnell counterprogramming that message?
You might also think that McConnell’s just bluffing about what his caucus would accept, that he’d be able to find 13 Republicans to join with 47 Democrats to pass a Trump/Pelosi deal. That would leave 40 tea-party poseurs on the Republican side free to grandstand by voting no. All McConnell has to do is put the bill on the floor and let the moderates in his caucus do the rest.
So why the hell is he telling reporters he won’t do that? He’s created a situation now where either he’ll look weak by caving to Trump’s demands and holding a vote on an eventual bill or Trump will look weak when McConnell defies him by refusing to hold a vote.
Imagine the pressure that he and Trump could put on Pelosi with a unified message: Yes, the Republican Party will pass a bill along the lines of the president’s generous offer. All House Democrats need to do is accept. Pelosi already has members of her caucus breathing down her neck to make a deal with the White House, knowing how desperately Americans need this aid. A joint Trump/McConnell take-it-or-leave-it offer might trigger a civil war in her caucus if she refuses.
Yet here’s Cocaine Mitch doing the opposite, hinting at a war between Trump and the Senate GOP instead. Why?
They’re trying to take him out. They think he’s a goner, or hope he’s a goner, and are already positioning themselves to become phony fiscal conservatives again in the Biden era. Thwarting Trump now on the stimulus will give them a little extra credibility on that point later. “We were willing to say no to President Trump when he demanded $1.8 trillion in stimulus. Why would we say differently to President Biden?”
I heard Tim Miller of the Bulwark say recently that Senate Republicans’ resistance to doing this latest round of stimulus given the political *and* economic stakes is one of the most maddening things he’s ever seen in politics. I agree. They’re not just openly sabotaging a president from their own party right before an election, they’re stiffing families who are on a razor’s edge. Read this NYT piece about the eight million Americans who now qualify as impoverished since the COVID economic slowdown began. It’s white-knuckle material:
Among those experiencing new hardships is Kristin Jeffcoat, 24, who is raising three children in Camptonville, Calif., a hamlet about 80 miles north of Sacramento. When schools closed last spring, Ms. Jeffcoat, an Instacart shopper, stayed home to watch them. Then her husband got laid off from landscaping work.
The expanded safety net initially caught them: Together, they received more than $1,500 a week in jobless benefits, which exceeded their lost wages. They also received a $3,900 stimulus check, which they used to prepay three months of rent. But since the unemployment bonus ended in July, their cash income has fallen nearly 80 percent.
Now living on $350 a week plus food stamps, Ms. Jeffcoat and her husband have gone without electricity because they cannot afford generator fuel (their house is off the power grid) and have spent weeks without propane for cooking and hot showers. “We stick with cold meals — cereals,” she said.
Or read Politico on the macroeconomic cascade effect that’ll begin once people can’t afford to buy goods or pay rent anymore, which will happen once the aid programs established by previous rounds of stimulus expire at the end of the year. Quote: “If the government doesn’t pass legislation, more than half of those receiving unemployment benefits — about 13.4 million people — stand to be left with no income.”
That’s larger than the population of Illinois.
Republicans have every electoral, economic, and humanitarian incentive to pass whatever compromise can be reached between Trump and the House. The political fate of their own colleagues, like Susan Collins, may depend on whether something gets done. Yet McConnell’s telling us he won’t even put a bill on the floor.
What possible reason could there be for that except that their absolute top priority, above the welfare of struggling Americans and a two-term Trump presidency, has become … pre-Biden deficit-hawk posturing?
Here’s Trump this morning reiterating that he’s willing to go higher than Pelosi. He also claimed that China is going to pay for the stimulus, an empty promise that sounds familiar somehow.