The need for federal policymakers to approve an economic aid package should be obvious right now. Indeed, the Washington Post noted this morning that, without action, roughly 12 million Americans will lose their unemployment insurance benefits the day after Christmas. The impact on those families will be brutal, and it will similarly take a toll on the larger economy.
It was against this backdrop that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent a new letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) yesterday, effectively pleading with him to come to the negotiating table to work on a relief bill.
"Millions of unemployed Americans and those facing eviction and hunger demand action from their leaders. The time to act is upon us like never before. The COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession will not end without our help. It is essential that this bill have sufficient funding and delivers meaningful relief to the many Americans who are suffering. For the sake of the country, we ask that you come to the table and work with us to produce an agreement that meets America's needs in this critical time."
If McConnell was moved by the appeal, he kept it to himself. NBC News reported overnight, "After months of stalemate, negotiations have yet to restart."
Perhaps the Senate GOP leader is relying on behind-the-scenes talks that hold open the possibility of progress? McConnell said yesterday that he's had "no private discussions" lately with Pelosi, though Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said he had connected with Pelosi about a possible relief bill, so perhaps the door isn't entirely closed.
Under normal circumstances, this would ordinarily be the point at which presidential leadership made a difference, but as we discussed the other day, Donald Trump has largely abandoned efforts to improve the economy, and the work of government "has been reduced to something of a sideshow for the president." The outgoing Republican published a tweet late last week about a "big" relief bill, but he spent the weekend golfing instead of trying to negotiate a deal.
Remember, four days before Election Day, a reporter asked Trump about the prospects for an economic aid package. "We will have a tremendous stimulus package immediately after the election," the president replied.
Fresh off his relatively easy re-election win, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) conceded yesterday, "I'm kind of discouraged, frankly, right now."
That is, to be sure, a relatively common attitude. Perhaps Cornyn can convince McConnell to at least try to work on the issue?