So what now? It’s always possible that something will change between now and Nov. 3. But for the time being, the McConnell’s comments suggest that there is very little chance that Congress will pass a relief bill before the upcoming election. (Some think it’s possible that a smaller package could pass in early December, when the government’s funding is set to run out). Hopes for a deal rested on the idea that Trump could browbeat GOP Senators into passing whatever his team negotiated with Pelosi. It’s never been clear that the president could actually pull off that kind of a complicated legislative bank shot. But now that Republican leaders are are explicitly distancing themselves from the commander in chief and his sinking trash barge of a campaign, it seems even more unrealistic.
Be that as it may, there are still good reasons for Pelosi and the Democrats to strike a deal with the White House while one is still on offer (in today’s talks, Mnuchin apparently promised that Trump would “weigh in” with McConnell to try and change his mind). First, the party still owes the country a good-faith effort to prevent widespread suffering this holiday season, especially since all signs point to a slowing economic recovery. Second, even if the agreement hits a wall in the Senate, it could still cause political trouble for Republicans. Rejecting a hypothetical $1.8 trillion package is different from rejecting an actual $1.8 trillion package upon which the president has bestowed his blessing. Why not force vulnerable GOP Senators to explain why they’re defying Trump and refusing to vote for much-needed aid while Americans get ready for a winter of misery? Best case scenario, McConnell buckles under pressure from the White House. Worst case, Democrats score some points. If McConnell and the Senate GOP want to kill the bill, make them own their dirty work.