Oh wait, that’s not quite how every major news outlet reports the status of the COVID-19 relief package negotiations. Their nearly universal description is “nearing agreement.” That’s how NBC describes it, while ABC reports “Congress close to COVID-19 relief deal.” CBS uses “Congress nears” for its report.  You get the gist.

The Associated Press reported an hour ago that the deal still valiantly struggles to stay in the same distance from success that it’s enjoyed since July, too. They just put it more optimistically. Suckers.

Congressional negotiators are closing in on a $900 billion COVID-19 economic relief package that would deliver additional help to businesses, $300-per-week jobless checks and $600 stimulus payments to most Americans. But there was no deal quite yet.

The long-delayed measure was coming together as Capitol Hill combatants finally fashioned difficult compromises, often at the expense of more ambitious Democratic wishes for the legislation, to complete the second major relief package of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wasn’t that supposed to happen yesterday? Indeed it was, but Lucy unexpectedly yanked the football away again. Who could’ve guessed that?

A hoped-for announcement Wednesday failed to materialize as lawmakers across the spectrum hammered out details of the sprawling legislation and top negotiators continued to trade offers. But lawmakers briefed on the outlines of the aid bill freely shared them.

About the only media outlet with the proper perspective on this congressional clusterfark is CNN. Give credit where it’s due, as Manu Raju and Clare Foran don’t appear to be impressed with the happy talk and utter lack of actual agreement. That’s more about the continuing resolution than the COVID-19 relief deal, but the two are now inextricably intertwined:

As congressional leaders scramble to finalize a $900 billion Covid relief deal, it’s growing increasingly unlikely that Congress will be able to get the long-awaited plan through both chambers by Friday night when a government shutdown looms.

With fewer than two days left on the clock, lawmakers are now discussing the possibility of extending the shutdown deadline, again, to allow more time for negotiations to lock down a deal and push it through the House and Senate. The two issues are tied together since leaders want to tie the relief deal to a $1.4 trillion funding bill to keep the government open through next September. …

The price tag could be close to $900 billion and it’s expected to include money for vaccine distribution and for schools, jobless benefits of $300 per week, roughly $330 billion for small business loans, and a new round of stimulus checks, which could be set at around $600 per individual under a certain income threshold.

While the proposal is also expected to include a $90 billion fund administered by FEMA to provide to states and cities, it will not include a large pot of money for state and local governments that Democrats had demanded. It also won’t include protections from lawsuits for businesses and others that opened up during the pandemic, a key GOP priority.

If this sounds repetitive, it is. We’re writing about the same deal over and over again because Congress has fussed over the same details for spending their imaginary money for the last four months.  As I wrote yesterday, it’s essentially the same deal that Congress could have easily passed any time over the last four months. The elements for this kind of compromise have been hiding in plain sight all along.

And yet, even more than a month after the election essentially negated even the last arguable electoral advantages for both sides, they’re still stubbornly refusing to split money that doesn’t truly exist in the first place. If someone wrote this as satire of the crumbling credibility of national institutions, no one would have bought it. To quote my friend and colleague Cam Edwards at Bearing Arms, “Everything is stupid, and it’s getting stupider all the time.” Stand by for tomorrow’s breathless update of the Generalissimo Francisco Franco bill!

Update: I may have spoken too soon. Politico’s Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer also sound skeptical:

Well, you have to pass it to find out what’s in it, as Pelosi once famously advised. On that basis, this might be the most well-kept secret in Congress.