Two weeks after CARES Act benefits expired, talks between the White House and Congress on a new economic aid package have effectively collapsed. Donald Trump, who really ought to want to reach an agreement in order to improve his election prospects, conceded yesterday that he believes a deal is "not going to happen."
There's no shortage of stumbling blocks, though part of the problem is fundamental: the parties disagree on what's important and worth prioritizing. A leading White House voice made that painfully clear again this morning on CNBC.
President Donald Trump will not support a coronavirus relief deal that includes "voting rights" provisions backed by Democrats, White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said Thursday. "So much of the Democratic asks are really liberal, left wish lists -- voting rights and aid to aliens and so forth," he told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" when asked about the administration's stalled aid talks with Democratic leaders.
"That's not our game, and the president can't accept that kind of deal," the director of the National Economic Council added.
Just to help provide some additional context to this, the president this morning effectively confessed that he's trying to undermine his own country's Postal System in order to derail mail-in voting -- a process he and his team rely on to cast their own ballots, but which Trump believes will cause him to lose if widely embraced by the public.
Trump argued in a Fox Business interview this morning, in reference to the Postal Service, "They want $3.5 billion for something that will turn out to be fraudulent. They want $3.5 billion for the mail-in votes, OK. Universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion for the post office. Now they need that money in order to have the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. Now in the meantime they aren’t getting there. By the way, those are just two items, but if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting, because they’re not equipped to have it."
It was soon after that the top economics voice in the White House characterized voting rights -- a cornerstone of any healthy democracy -- as something found on "really liberal, left wish lists."
I can only hope Kudlow wasn't condemning voting rights in general, and was instead arguing that the White House wouldn't tolerate provisions related to voting rights in an economic aid package.
Either way, there are a variety of questions Kudlow and the rest of Team Trump should try to answer at this point:
* Why is the idea of protecting voting rights during the coronavirus pandemic, in a bill related to responding to the coronavirus pandemic, so offensive to the White House?
* Why does Team Trump consider voting rights a priority limited to "liberals" and the "left"?
* If the White House sees voting rights as irrelevant in a coronavirus bill, can Team Trump explain why it's fighting to include funding for a new FBI building and multiple fighter jets in the same legislation?
It's worth emphasizing that congressional Democrats are, in fact, pushing for voting protections as part of the "Phase IV" economic plan. In fact, as Axios noted this morning, Democrats want $3.6 billion for universal mail-in voting and $25 billion for the USPS in the bill.
I expected Trump and other Republicans to come up with some kind of pretextual explanation for opposing such investments. Instead, White House officials, including the president, are being quite candid in their position: they want to make it harder for Americans to vote.