As negotiations between the White House and congressional Democrats grind to a complete halt, and the inadequacy of Trump’s coronavirus stimulus becomes more apparent, Senate Republicans are now putting the finishing touches on their own new proposal that apparently preempts the HEALS Act they put together with the administration late last month. It’s being called a “skinny” stimulus, and as the New York Times reports, it’s narrower than any of the piecemeal approaches Democrats have already rejected out of hand:
Senate Republicans on Tuesday began circulating text of a narrow coronavirus relief package that would revive extra unemployment benefits at half the original rate, shield businesses from lawsuits related to the virus and provide funding for testing and schools.
The draft measure appears to be an effort to break through the political stalemate over providing another round of economic stimulus to Americans during the pandemic. But it is unlikely to alter the debate in Washington, where Democrats have repeatedly rejected previous Republican offers as insufficient. The new bill would spend less money, in fewer areas, than those earlier offers.
So if, as should be obvious, the “skinny” proposal will not interest congressional Democrats at all (Nancy Pelosi has made it abundantly clear that she believes the overall price tag of HEALS needs to double before talks resume), what is its purpose? According to Forbes, the idea is to unite Senate Republicans, many of whom want no new stimulus at all:
With negotiations over the next coronavirus stimulus package at an impasse and Republicans divided among themselves, Senate leaders held conference calls with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows last week. The output from those calls is a redefined plan that is expected to help unite the Republican caucus by lowering the $1 trillion price tag of the HEALS Act. By drawing more support, it will also strengthen the Republican negotiating position in talks with Democrats.
But it looks like the GOP, in an effort to maintain internal harmony, may have sacrificed the single most popular stimulus idea of them all (and one that was included in both HEALS and the Democratic HEROES Act) — a second $1,200 stimulus check for low- to moderate-income households:
GOP aides who provided details of the expected provisions made no mention of a second stimulus check. In addition to Politico, multiple outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and The Hill, reported on what the new skinny GOP bill will include and none made mention of a second stimulus check.
Until now, the one item that seemed certain to appear in any ultimate stimulus deal was the second stimulus check. Indeed, if I were in charge of Republican messaging, I’d make the second check the centerpiece of absolutely each and every GOP proposal and accuse the Democrats of holding up these checks (which millions of Americans have planned on receiving) in order to hurt the economy and prevent Trump’s reelection. Instead Republicans seem to be letting the latter-day fiscal hawks in their Senate conference drag them in the opposite direction. Go figure.