I'd call this unbelievable, but is it? On Sunday evening, Senate Democrats filibustered a bill designed to provide immediate relief to American workers and businesses, in the midst of a global pandemic and its resulting economic stoppage. The upper chamber worked through the weekend to hammer out a legislative outline, on a bipartisan basis. Ideas from both parties were put into the plan, leading to an agreement in principle on a broad framework. Then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived back in town and announced that she would torpedo the bill, then her Senate counterparts abandoned it.
They blamed a "slush fund" for corporations. Republicans dispute this claim -- but even setting it aside, the bulk of the bill was bipartisan (Schumer himself hailed the bipartisanship over the weekend) and contained: (1) Direct checks to American workers, (2) hundreds of billions in loans to small businesses, and (3) aid to hospitals. Yet the hastily-cobbled-together Democratic talking points pretended as if these consensus provisions had been gutted in favor of a secret corporate giveaway, with no safeguards or strings. This was a fabrication and a wild mischaracterization of reality:
2) Pelosi's balk is naked attempt to cadge more last-minute money. She's playing politics in a crisis. Which is almost as bad as Elizabeth Warren suggesting this is a corporate "slush fund." Gov shuts down economy, and Warren blames business? Toxic.— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) March 22, 2020
An irate Mitch McConnell blasted his colleagues in what several Congressional correspondents described as the angriest speech they'd ever seen from the majority leader:
There is a highly contagious and deadly pandemic spreading. The US economy is grinding to a halt as a result, as the government is effectively forcing businesses to run skeleton operations or close entirely. People are being directed to stay home, for good reason, at this time. This is not a 'bailout' that exacerbates a moral hazard problem. It's a lifeline to stave off horrendous economic pain until (hopefully) a massive public health crisis improves. People are losing their jobs. Businesses are in real, immediate danger of going under. If Democrats had concerns about tightening up some language or making some small changes, fine. McConnell directly and repeatedly said that negotiations were still open, and that the final content of the legislation was not yet set in stone. What Democrats did was filibuster and kill a legislative vehicle for the final legislation, delaying the whole process -- when virtually every single economist agrees that time is of the essence.
It was an insanely reckless thing to do. May I remind you that the GOP Senate recently and overwhelmingly passed House Democrats' so-called "phase two" bill, despite misgivings about it. Because the need was so dire. Now Pelosi waltzes into town and blows up days of intensive work that she wasn't a part of, and the Democrats scurried to a talking point about "slush funds," pretending that the product didn't have their fingerprints all over it. And then this morning, I received the following information from a senior Republican source with knowledge of the ongoing talks. This information, my source said, was vetted for accuracy and approved for publication before it was passed along to me:
Via senior GOP aide, Schumer/Pelosi now pushing these demands amid pandemic-fueled economic collapse:— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) March 23, 2020
1) Unprecedented collective bargaining powers for unions
2) Increased fuel emissions standards for airlines
3) Expansion of wind and solar tax credits
Flashback to this quote over the weekend:— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) March 23, 2020
"This is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision," Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told lawmakers, according to a source on the call. https://t.co/Ux0wUaNctO
And my tweets were not the only reporting along these lines:
/3 GOP source said Pelosi had a “laundry list” of additional requests, including election security funding. Dems also raised wiping out $10k in student loan debt & host of other issues— John Bresnahan (@BresPolitico) March 22, 2020
They're pushing for a Christmas tree of lefty policies in the middle of this conflagration? Seriously? I can't help but think back to all the times Republicans were excoriated as "hostage takers" and "suicide bombers" by Democrats the the media over various budget disputes. This crisis is more acute than any of those circumstances. The media is doing its best to spin this for Democrats (this from the New York Times is beyond parody), but it's the harsh realities are too glaring to escape. As disgusted and appalled as I am, this is my view of what needs to happen:
The cutthroat and perhaps deserved move here is to jam the Dems and punish them for their astoundingly harmful, cynical gambit. But the stakes are too high for way too many innocent people. Give them a face-saving off-ramp and get the tweaked thing passed. https://t.co/HP4v6P4ubl— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) March 23, 2020
I suspect that Democratic leaders are throwing a lot of non-starters against the wall with the full understanding that the answer will be 'no.' But maybe they think they can build a little bit of leverage to nudge the package in their direction, then declare some 'victory' and get on board. I think that's cynical and a waste of valuable time, but here we are. Make some tweaks, hail the compromise, and get this done. With markets tanking again, and high-pressure votes upcoming this afternoon, my expectation is that this deeply irresponsible game of chicken ends. Today. We'll see what happens, very soon.
UPDATE - McConnell just confirmed my reporting on the Senate floor. Schumer then regurgitated the same misleading talking points:
He’s lying https://t.co/2RIP1OzGyf— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) March 23, 2020
Here is the text on the $500B portion of the bill:— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) March 23, 2020
Direct Lending Limitations: executive total compensation may not exceed $425,000; prohibition of stock buybacks during the duration of the loan; borrowers must maintain existing payroll as of March 13.
Dems are lying.