It’s obvious but bears stating anyway: The only reason Pelosi thinks she can get away with trying to get a Democratic policy wishlist passed at a moment of dire economic emergency is because she trusts that the media will run interference for her and her party.
As I write this at 6 p.m. ET, this is the headline for today’s lead editorial at the New York Times:
I don’t know what Pelosi’s endgame is here. Obviously she’ll have to back off her demands; Republicans aren’t going to enact the Democratic agenda just because they need House votes to get money flowing to laid off people. Dan Foster offers this grim possibility:
The terrifying truth about Democratic obstruction:
It isn’t that they don’t care about causing further economic damage.
It’s that they made the calculation that further significant damage is unavoidable, and they might as try to get some of their priorities done.
— Daniel Foster (@DanFosterType) March 23, 2020
Maybe. But again, that strategy only works if you assume that the GOP will be blamed at least as much as Democrats will for the delay in getting checks out to people. She’d behave differently right now, even if she thought economic devastation were inevitable, if she feared that the press would hold her party accountable for larding up negotiations with demands unrelated to the crisis. But they won’t, so she isn’t.
“Hostage-taking” is what they called this when the GOP tried to condition debt-ceiling hikes on Dems agreeing to certain Republican priorities back in the tea-party days. We’ve never had a crisis in American history like the one we have now, yet here’s Pelosi ransoming checks that people need to pay their rent in return for concessions on stuff like emissions standards. It’s unimaginable yet somehow real. Like everything else these days.
You would think that if she wanted to slow down the bill in order to scapegoat Republicans for the delay, she’d focus on Democratic complaints that the Senate bill sets up a $500 billion “slush fund” for Steve Mnuchin to reward favored interests. That complaint is overstated — the House’s own bill sets up a similar $150 billion supposed “slush fund” — but at least it’s good populist political fodder. Windmills are … not a good reason. But when you don’t need to worry about accountability, you don’t need to have good reasons for what you do.
This deal, which is urgently needed, apparently will not get written up tonight even though millions of people are eight days away from having to pay rent and mortgages. Here’s Cruz making his righteous contempt for Democratic tactics known on the Senate floor today.