It’s stunning because it’s true, and it hints that Democrats might have miscalculated how much political cover they have in this coronavirus crisis. After three days of bipartisan negotiations, Senate Democrats suddenly decided to block the CARES Act on a procedural vote. The New York Times leaves no doubt as to which party made the move, and which party risks getting blamed for the fallout:
Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked action on an emerging deal to prop up an economy devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, paralyzing the progress of a nearly $2 trillion government rescue package they said failed to adequately protect workers or impose strict enough restrictions on bailed-out businesses.
The party-line vote was a stunning setback after three days of fast-paced negotiations between senators and administration officials to reach a bipartisan compromise on legislation that is expected to be the largest economic stimulus package in American history — now expected to cost $1.8 trillion or more. In a 47-to-47 vote, the Senate fell short of the 60 votes that would have been needed to advance the measure, even as talks continued between behind the scenes between Democrats and the White House to salvage a compromise.
The failure to move forward shook financial markets and threatened an ambitious timeline set by the Trump administration and leading Republicans to move the rescue package through the Senate on Monday and enact it within days.
In voting to block action, Democrats risked a political backlash if they are seen as obstructing progress on a measure that is widely regarded as crucial to aid desperate Americans and prop up a flagging economy.
The deal began to unravel when Nancy Pelosi announced that she would not accept the Senate bill and planned to write a House Democrat plan for Phase 3 coronavirus relief. An infuriated Mitch McConnell ripped Democrats for pulling a last-minute partisan stunt while Americans desperately need relief, and markets need a show of confidence:
“I want everybody to fully understand if we aren’t able to act tomorrow, it will because of our colleagues on the other side continuing to dither when the country expects us to come together and address this problem,” he said from the Senate floor.
McConnell noted that during the vote the stock futures dropped five percent, adding that “the notion that we have time to play games here with the American economy and the American people is utterly absurd.” …
The floor drama came after Schumer, McConnell, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) met with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to try to break the stalemate.
“All of the sudden the Democratic leader and the speaker of the House shows up, and we’re back to square one. We’re fiddling here, fiddling with the emotions of the American people, fiddling with the markets, fiddling with our health care,” McConnell said.
“She’s the Speaker of the House, not the Speaker of the Senate. We don’t have one. We were doing just fine until that intervention,” McConnell added.
Senate Democrats rushed to blame McConnell and the Senate GOP for partisanship, but it didn’t convince the New York Times. And if it didn’t convince the New York Times, it’s tough to see who they will convince. Pelosi and Schumer have had significantly sympathetic media treatment thus far in the crisis, but torpedoing a trillion-plus rescue package at the eleventh hour — perhaps the thirteenth hour, arguably — is one partisan trick too many for the Paper of Record.
Of course, by the morning, the headline and the treatment may have changed. It’s tough to memory-hole coverage these days, however …
Update: The Gray Lady’s already rewriting their narrative, at least in the lead headline:
Note that this headline is a section headline in a live-update report, but … yeah, this is not unexpected.
Update, 10:31 pm ET: To be fair, the NYT’s live-update page still has the same headline for that section, and that’s also in the main headline. Also, Mitch McConnell wants a do-over — and note just when he plans to demand another vote on cloture:
Mcconnell says the Senate will take a re-vote of the procedural vote at 9:45 a.m. tomorrow — 15 minutes after the markets open, he notes in an extra bit of pressure on the Ds.
— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) March 23, 2020
By that time, some of Schumer’s caucus might be having second thoughts.
Update: Even the Democrats’ favorite Senate Republican is ripping them tonight:
As for funds for companies, it’s to keep entities that employ millions of Americans from folding—it’s to save jobs. Keep this up a little longer and we will go from social distancing to social destruction.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) March 23, 2020
Voters need to feel confident that the country’s leadership is taking this seriously. Donald Trump has been making that impression for at least the last ten days. This makes Democrats look seriously, if not fatally, unserious — and market psychology will tank if it continues.