Senate leaders and the White House appear to have reached an agreement on the divisive $2 trillion stimulus package to keep Americans and American businesses afloat during the COVID-19 crisis. The deal must still be voted upon, but senior leaders on both sides of the aisle appear confident the package will get the necessary votes and that President Trump will sign.
However, as we have witnessed this last week, hammering out the spending bill has more been a case of removing pork than prioritizing livelihoods. The final text is not yet complete, and many lawmakers may balk at voting for a raft of measures they have not had time to read. Will the bill contain Easter Eggs for the party faithful, or ammunition to continue the battle for the presidency?
Bipartisan Support… Sort Of
The negotiations carried deep into the night between Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other White House notables. Early morning on March 25, the ad hoc team decided they had the basic details in place and announced to the media that they were ready to proceed.
Mnuchin briefed waiting reporters, saying:
“This is a very important bipartisan legislation that is going to be very important to help American workers, American business … We couldn’t be more pleased. Spoken to the president many times today, he’s very pleased with this legislation and the impact this is going to have.”
He indicated that President Trump was “pleased,” but whether this means the commander in chief is satisfied that a deal has been reached or that he is happy with the content of the agreement is not so clear.
Schumer was somewhat less ebullient, stating:
“This bill is far from perfect, but we believe the legislation has been improved significantly to warrant its quick consideration and passage.”
Face Saving Time
While many politicos on Capitol Hill are applauding the bipartisan effort, there is also an undercurrent of feeling that Democrats are, in fact, reeling. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) introduced her own deal just two days prior, it was lambasted as a festival of pork and a Christmas wish list for progressives … essentially making it a non-starter.
How many elements of Pelosi’s hog roast will be included in the final deal is as yet unknown, but if the ridicule it has faced from lawmakers is an indication, not many will survive. However, in the Swamp, nobody agrees to anything for nothing.
In what appears to be an act of electioneering, Schumer insisted that of the business aid spending, not a cent would be made available to companies in which the president, the vice president, members of Congress, their children, spouses, or in-laws have an interest. A very thinly-veiled dig at the Trumps and the Kushners, but also a smart move politically for the Democrats. Should the president refuse to sign the package for any reason whatsoever, Dems and their advocates in the media would swiftly engage in a propaganda war declaring that the “only” reason Trump is not on board is that he wants a chunk of that cash. It may not be true, but in the age of narrative and spin, we can expect to see significant campaigning on this issue all the way through to November.
Read more from Mark Angelides.
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