Yesterday we discussed what was expected to show up in the Senate GOP’s counteroffer to House Democrats in terms of a second pandemic stimulus bill. Most of the predicted items were included, but a lot of attention was focused on what the Republican proposal would do about the federal enhancement to unemployment benefits that are currently expiring. Reports indicated that the caucus had been going back and forth between 100, 200 or 400 dollars per week, down from the 600 dollar level in the first bill. It looks like they decided to take the middle route and settled on 200 dollars, along with a 450 dollar “return to work” bonus for those returning to their old jobs.

The major sticking point I noted at the time was the possibility that the Democrats would simply wave off the entire thing. Well, it took no time at all for that decision to be made. Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi declared the bill to be a “non-starter” and essentially brought the entire process to a crashing halt. (The Hill)

The $1 trillion coronavirus relief package unveiled Monday by the White House and Senate Republicans is being dismissed as a non-starter by Democrats, setting the stage for lengthy negotiations as various federal assistance programs are set to expire.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met for almost two hours with Treasury Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in the Speaker’s office Monday evening for an initial round of negotiations but made little progress.

Democrats say the GOP legislation falls short of providing enough money for state and local governments, fails to protect renters from eviction and doesn’t invest enough in lower-income communities hit hard by the pandemic.

When I say the decision by the Democrats “took no time at all,” I meant that literally. If we could have a peek behind the curtain, I’m fairly certain that the decision to flatly reject the GOP offer was made before they’d ever seen the bill.

The various comments given by Democrats for this article demonstrate once again how this proposal is being treated as a political matter by Schumer and Pelosi rather than a serious effort at passing some workable legislation. One anonymous Democratic Senator said that they “have leverage over Republicans” because the President’s poll numbers are tanking, so the Democratic minority can “write the bill on our terms.”

This “my way or the highway” approach hasn’t traditionally worked out well in the polls for the party attempting it. For all of the people out there who are about to see their unemployment benefits slashed by six hundred dollars per week, the question of whether the GOP or the Democrats are doing better in polls doesn’t add up to a hill of beans. (And their mood isn’t likely to improve if they have to start literally living off beans, either.) It shouldn’t be difficult for the Republicans to quickly get the message out that relief was on the table and available and it was the Democrats who walked away.

Assuming the House and Senate could find a way to send their competing proposals to reconciliation before they all go on vacation, it probably wouldn’t be hard to take the Republicans’ opening offer of 200 dollars per week and bump it up to 350 or 400 in a compromise. That’s not as great as 600 for those relying on it, but it’s still pretty good and the natives would probably be considerably less restless.

But let’s say there is no compromise offered by the Democrats. How do you suppose the voters are going to respond if everyone packs up their things and goes on vacation three days from now without delivering anything? To say this isn’t a good look in terms of political optics is an understatement. The GOP has a proposal on the table and President Trump is willing to sign it. The only thing standing in the way is the Senate Democratic minority. (And Trump already made concessions on the payroll tax cut and a few other demands.) Pelosi and Schumer appear to be grossly overplaying their hand here and they will rightly be getting an earful from the public over it if they allow this ship to sail without them.