Image Credits: J. Scott Applewhite.
A CNBC/Change Research survey of voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin found overwhelming opposition to the Senate Republicans’ coronavirus stimulus approach. Sixty-nine percent want the federal government to give aid to states to help them avoid massive budget cuts. Sixty-two percent want an extension of the federal $600-a-week unemployment insurance enhancement. And 58 percent are opposed to giving legal immunity to corporations from COVID-19 related law suits.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell found it impossible to get any consensus within his caucus for a bill. The end product satisfied no one. For example, Senator Rick Scott served two terms as the governor of Florida, so you might expect him to be sympathetic to the concept of aiding states that are now facing huge budget shortfalls. But he’s too much of an ideologue to have any empathy for his successor: “I’m very concerned about the amount of money we’re talking about. What I don’t want to do is bail out the states. That’s wrong.”
Maybe Sen. Scott would be less perturbed if he actually read his party’s bill:
The Republican proposal would not allocate any new aid to states and municipalities, instead giving them more flexibility in how they spend relief money approved earlier this year.
Senator Rand Paul was so concerned about the cost that he stormed out of a caucus meeting, despite the fact that the bill “would slash the extra federal unemployment benefit to $200 per week, [and] then shift to a 70% replacement of an individual’s previous wages.” As to the unpopularity of his position, he was defiant: “I think they have the misguided notion that you have to spend this or you can’t get elected.” Based on the survey results, Senators Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Martha McSally of Arizona probably think Rand Paul is out of his mind.
The liability protection provision is not only included in the GOP bill, but McConnell insists it’s the one thing that is non-negotiable.
Pelosi and Schumer questioned McConnell’s willingness to reach an agreement, saying the Kentucky Republican has indicated he wouldn’t compromise on his demands for liability protections for schools and businesses in the next bill.
“That is no way to negotiate particularly when his provision is so extreme,” Schumer told reporters Tuesday afternoon.
Drawing a “red line” on a policy that is supported by only 33 percent of voters in battleground states seems like dumb politics, but McConnell is serving his funders here, and money can shape opinion.
Sen. Lindsey Graham tried to sound optimistic, saying “I think if Mitch can get half the conference, that’d be quite an accomplishment.” But, of course, that comment makes little sense. McConnell needs near-unanimity from his caucus to pass anything without Democratic votes. And his bill will have to be merged with Nancy Pelosi’s completely different House bill and then go through the Senate a second time. McConnell has zero leverage because his caucus is not behind him and the public hates his proposal. Pelosi is happy to walk away and blame the Senate for pursuing toxic policies.
However, the further he moves in her direction, the fewer votes he will have from Senate Republicans, so he’s at risk at passing something that is only supported by only a handful of his caucus. If nothing passes, it will badly hurt his party’s chances in the fall, and he knows this even if Rand Paul does not.