Pelosi on Phase 4 talks: Imagine a giraffe and a flamingo having sex ...

Translation: We’re screwed. At least that’s how Nancy Pelosi made it sound yesterday after the Senate GOP released their version of a COVID-19 Phase 4 relief bill. Democrats and Republicans have very different versions of some of the same ideas, and are about $2.5 trillion apart in helicopter-cash scope. Just how can the two sides marry their proposals?

According to Politico, Pelosi and Schumer used an even more graphic analogy to explain how it won’t happen. People can see a giraffe and a flamingo at the same zoo, Pelosi told her conference, but just see what happens when you try to mate them:

ON TUESDAY, during a meeting in Speaker NANCY PELOSI’S office suite, the speaker and Senate Minority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER had a point to make: The Republicans’ $1 trillion Covid relief plan and the Democrats’ multi trillion-dollar HEROES Act are simply irreconcilable.

“IT’S LIKE A GIRAFFE AND A FLAMINGO,” PELOSI said to the room, which included SCHUMER, White House chief of staff MARK MEADOWS and Treasury Secretary STEVEN MNUCHIN. “They’re both at a zoo. A dumb person may think they could mate for offspring. A smart person knows that’s impossible. That’s our bills. They’re unable to mate.”

For some reason, animal sex was on the mind of Chuck Schumer, too, only he seemed more confused about it:

SCHUMER compared them to dogs — “a golden retriever can’t mate with a Chihuahua. You have a Chihuahua. We have a beautiful lion,” he said, according to multiple people in the room. PELOSI then helpfully reminded SCHUMER that a lion is a cat, so, no, they could not mate.

Actually, I’d bet that a chihuahua and a retriever could mate in theory, but it’s anyone’s guess as to what purpose it would serve. And what does the lion represent in that analogy — the White House? Ted Kennedy? Detroit football? Even Pelosi couldn’t figure that one out, although if she’s concerned about cross-genus issues, she shouldn’t be trying to mate a bird and a giraffe either. At least Schumer stuck to mammals.

Anyway, all of these analogies are supposed to show just how irreconcilable the two approaches are. But of course, that’s not going to be true in the end; this is horse trading, and horse trading usually starts with animal-sex allusions. [checks notes] Excuse me, I meant to write that it usually starts with claims of unreasonableness on the part of both sides.

So which side has the advantage? Unfortunately, the table leaned toward the zoophiles last night when Donald Trump sniffed at the Senate GOP plan. Despite Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s work in developing the proposal, Trump called it “semi-irrelvant”:

President Trump brushed off the new $1 trillion Senate GOP coronavirus legislation as “sort of semi-irrelevant” Tuesday, dismissing its significance just a day after Senate Republican leaders overcame contentious internal divisions to roll it out. …

At the White House, Trump was asked if there were elements of the bill he opposed.

“Yeah, there are, actually. And we’ll be talking about it. There are also things that I very much support,” the president said. “But we’ll be negotiating. It’s sort of semi-irrelevant because the Democrats come with their needs and asks and the Republicans go with theirs.”

Trump seemed stung over criticism from Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans over funding for a new FBI building in the proposal. That caught some of them by surprise, as they had been arguing for fiscal restraint with their smaller package. The pork undercut that argument, but Trump wasn’t necessarily interested in the relatively restrained spending the GOP proposed anyway. Trump still sounded annoyed over the criticism this morning:

This is a rather odd hill on which to die in COVID-19 relief. The hotel issue is neither here nor there; this is the kind of pork that could easily be tied into the defense bill (maybe as a sweetener to trade for the mandate to remove Confederate names from military bases), or to other must-pass bills later in the year. Putting it into emergency spending for the pandemic, especially without the support of one’s partners, is mystifying.

You might say it’s like trying to mate a wild boar with a three-toed sloth. Well, maybe you wouldn’t say that, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer would.

At some point, though, the logjam will break and the horse-trading will begin. How do we know that? Because horse-trading is in everyone’s interest, that’s why, and Republicans might be feeling the pressure more:

Republican lawmakers faced with slipping poll numbers and economic indicators acknowledge they are under pressure to reach a quick deal with Democrats on a new coronavirus package.

Armed with more leverage, Democrats will likely not agree to any deal unless it is closer to the $3.4 trillion bill the House passed in May. Republican officials don’t see any advantages to drawing the battle out.

GOP senators say there are several significant factors that weigh in favor of reaching a deal soon. They include the expiration of the $600-a-week federal enhancement to state unemployment benefits, the expiration of the federal moratorium on evictions, the recent wave of new coronavirus infections in Sun Belt and Midwestern states, the fast-approaching start of the school year, and a wave of potential small-business closures predicted for the weeks ahead.

McConnell wants to use the drop-dead date on the federal unemployment bonuses to gain more leverage in negotiations. That seemed to work a bit yesterday when Steny Hoyer budged off the ultimatum position, but Republicans will have to cough up some cash on Democrats’ priorities in return. The real sticking points are liability protections and block-granted state aid, not FBI buildings and “$600 or bust,” as Hoyer put it, and both sides know it.

Now that they’ve played out their public arguments, the quiet talks can begin, if they haven’t already. And when they do, they just might find that they aren’t giraffes and flamingos, or golden retrievers and lions. They’re just two different strains of the same hyena, and they have a very successful track record of mating at our expense. This won’t be any different. Put the over/under on the final Phase 4 package at $2.2 trillion … and I’ll take the over.

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