House Democrats are expected to pass a $3 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill today that is almost universally regarded as a “messaging” measure. That means they know it’s not going to become law, but represents (a) an election-year statement to voters of where Democrats stand on the crisis consuming the country right now, and (b) a first step toward a negotiated “fifth stimulus” bill (the fifth relief measure taken up by Congress since the coronavirus pandemic began killing large numbers of Americans) once the White House and Senate Republicans decide past measures aren’t enough to reverse the current deep economic slide.
But Senate Republicans are going far out of their way not only to dismiss the House bill as a “liberal wish list,” but to deny it has any bearing whatsoever on their own course of action, as The Hill explains:
Pelosi, during a press conference on Thursday, characterized the House bill as an opening salvo.
“We’re putting our offer on the table. We’re open to negotiation,” Pelosi said. “Here’s our offer. Let’s see where you are.”
But asked why he wasn’t viewing the House bill as a “first serve” that could be “volleyed” between the two chambers, McConnell argued that the House bill was “hardly salvageable,” a “liberal wish list” and a “parade of absurdities …”
Senate Republicans are signaling they want to get an understanding with the White House before they start talks with Democrats.
So Republicans apparently want their own “messaging” device, though it seems to be aimed less at 2020 voters than at the GOP’s corporate constituencies:
Instead of more spending, McConnell is focused on drafting liability protection legislation with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) that could be unveiled as soon as next week. That bill, according to McConnell, would create a “legal safe harbor” for businesses, nonprofits, governments, workers and schools reopening after weeks or months of stay-at-home orders.
After that idea is formally thrown into the mix, Republicans appear inclined to wait and see if conditions in the country get better before going to the White House with an urgent demand to get behind a fifth stimulus bill. In the meantime, they will continue taking shots at the House for remaining in recess while the Senate has reassembled to give Donald Trump some more federal judges, notes ABC News:
“House Democrats have been missing in action for months. While the Senate was passing the CARES Act [the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill enacted in late March], the Democratic House was on the sidelines — substantively, and literally. They had already gone home. Nearly two months later, senators are back at our duty stations, with new precautions. We’ve been back two weeks. We’re holding major hearings on the pandemic, legislating, and confirming nominees. But the House is still at home. And when they do contribute, it’s not serious,” McConnell said.
So no negotiations of any great significance are likely to happen until June, after next week’s Memorial Day recess of the Senate as well as the House. But there will be plenty of “messaging” in the meantime.