Pandemic Politics: Senate Relief Bill Appears Dead Until After the Election

Republicans in the Senate appear to have all but given up on their attempt at getting a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill passed before the end of the year.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will have a test vote on a GOP bill today. The bill comes nowhere near the Democrats’ demand for a $3 trillion relief package passed by the House in May. And McConnell isn’t even sure he has a majority of Republicans to vote for a “slim” version of that bill.

What is far more likely is agreement on a continuing resolution that would keep the government fully funded past September 30. Both sides have agreed to an outline of such a spending measure and it’s probable something that will be done before the recess.

Associated Press:

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“My guess would be that if we leave in September with a CR, we will not come back to do anything before the election,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

Shelby said lawmakers from both parties want to return home to campaign rather than stick around Washington.

Schumer said he has not decided whether to support a December date for a stopgap measure. Some Democrats, confident about presidential nominee Joe Biden’s prospects in November, want to push unfinished spending bills into next year and therefore avoid dealing with Trump in December. The nation’s longest ever government shutdown unfolded as 2018 turned into 2019.

Democrats decided long ago to obstruct any efforts at another coronavirus relief bill. They rammed the gargantuan $3 trillion bill through the Democratic House and essentially told the Senate, “take it or leave it,” knowing full well that Republicans would leave it. That House bill contained almost a trillion dollars to bail out states from their budget crisis — many of those problems predating the pandemic. Senate Republicans were not about to throw a lifeline to profligate Democratic governors who saw the pandemic as a way out of their fiscal messes.

The House bill also contained measures that a lot of Republicans support, like another round of $1200 stimulus payments to individuals, extended unemployment benefits, and money for schools so they can safely reopen. But Pelosi wouldn’t even talk unless Republicans doubled their offer of $1.1 trillion.

Senator Ted Cruz called out the Democrats for these despicable tactics.

Politico:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was even more blunt, saying Democrats want Americans to suffer so they can win the election.

“I think their judgment is if we have 50 million people who are alone, and broke, and unemployed, and pissed off, that it benefits Joe Biden politically,” Cruz asserted. “If you look at what Pelosi and Schumer are saying publicly and privately, they have zero interest in reaching a deal.”

Both sides are gambling that their calculus about the voters’ idea of whom to blame won’t rest with them. Any advantage that Democrats might see will be nearly a wash. Almost as many voters will blame them as Republicans. The question for both Republicans and Democrats is how much emphasis the voter will put on the failure to reach a deal?

The issue is barely showing up in opinion polls. According to a Pew poll from the middle of August, the top three issues important to voters are the economy, health care, and Supreme Court appointments. Coronavirus relief will not be a big issue in the election.

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