There was a point last week at which Republican officials said they'd reached a broad agreement on a proposed economic aid package, but they weren't quite ready to unveil it. GOP leaders were on board with a broad outline of a deal, but they wanted to take a few more days to work out the details.
On Monday, after keeping everyone waiting, Republicans said they'd finally completed work on the party's proposed "Phase IV" package. On Tuesday, it all started to unravel, as GOP lawmakers started coming to terms with their own party's plan. Politico reported late yesterday:
Senate Republicans complained on Tuesday about key provisions in the GOP-authored coronavirus relief bill one day after its unveiling, as Democrats panned the proposal as a non-starter. The jockeying on Capitol Hill underscores how far apart both parties remain -- and the treacherous path Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell faces as he confronts internal GOP divisions and kicks off negotiations with Democrats.
Following a closed-door lunch with his GOP colleagues, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said of the proposed package, “It’s a mess. I can’t figure out what this bill is about. I don’t know what we’re trying to accomplish with it.”
As a rule, when people don't understand the point of a bill, the proposal is flawed in fundamental ways.
“In my many years of serving in this chamber, I have never seen a Republican majority -- or a Senate majority of any type -- respond to a national emergency in such a disorganized and disoriented fashion,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said yesterday. “They can’t agree on one bill. They can’t get 51 votes for anything that is comprehensive.”
Remember, Democrats came together on their bill on May 15. Republicans had 10 weeks to meet, discuss, negotiate, and get their act together. GOP leaders then unveiled a plan, only to have it rejected by both parties.
Complicating matters, in an act of apparent corruption, the White House insisted that the Republican blueprint include money for overhauling the FBI's existing headquarters -- a move that appeared intended to help one of Donald Trump's businesses -- only to have many GOP officials announce yesterday that they're opposed to this provision of their own plan.
The assumption has long been that as CARES Act benefits expire this week -- indeed, some key benefits have already expired for many Americans -- Congress and the White House would somehow work something out. The status quo wouldn't continue, the argument went, but policymakers would pass some kind of aid package.
That may yet happen, but to assume that success is inevitable is a mistake. Not only are the parties not close to an agreement, Republicans are at odds with each other, and the president -- who billed himself to voters as a world-class dealmaker -- is on the sidelines, unable to play a constructive role in the process.
Congress is scheduled to leave town next week for its August break. The odds of a breakthrough before that deadline aren't great.