President Trump confounded the pundits once again when be turned the tables on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and called off further negotiations on stimulus relief. For a president running on his ability to build (and rebuild) a strong economy, pulling the plug on a relief bill poised to prop up consumer spending seemed like an act of madness.
Indeed, that was what Pelosi hinted, in one of her more reckless and shameful accusations to date, telling “The View” audience recently that taking coronavirus medications may have impacted the president’s “thinking” and that perhaps he needs an “intervention.”
If rejecting the $2.1 trillion “Heroes Act” stuffed with Democratic wish-list items such as imposing federal rules banning voter IDs is the result of downing steroids or Remdesivir, every member of congress should be force-fed those meds.
The story, of course, does not end there. Trump pivoted soon thereafter, challenging Pelosi to accept a stream-lined and targeted relief effort. He tweeted, “If I am sent a Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200), they will go out to our great people IMMEDIATELY. I am ready to sign right now. Are you listening Nancy?”
It was a brilliant move, and should the two sides come together to help the American people – which is the point, right? – Trump will emerge the consummate dealmaker.
Americans are disgusted with Congress and its inability to get anything done. In the latest Gallup survey, only 17 percent of the country approved of Congress, while 80 percent disapproved, making Trump’s approval ratings look golden. That’s down from 30 percent earlier this year, and surely reflects the ongoing warfare between Democrats and Republicans over, among other things, another relief package.
As much as voters dislike congressional dysfunction, they must surely also hate the giant, pork-packed bills that govern our country. The “Heroes Act” weighs in at 2,100 pages. Why should doling out money to needy people and businesses require so much ink? Because that’s how Pelosi and, to be fair, her Republican counterparts, bury handouts to their favored constituents and allies. It is deplorable.
Trump’s demand that Pelosi simply send out checks to struggling Americans will strike most people as reasonable. But not Madame Speaker. She loves those overstuffed pieces of legislation. After all, she’s the one who agreed to ObamaCare, saying of that 2,700-page monstrosity, “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.”
The prevailing media-endorsed opinion (aka the Democratic talking point) is that Trump risks being blamed for the cut-off of aid to the unemployed and to small businesses if another bill does not pass. That certainty seems to have prompted Pelosi’s intransigence. She and the Democrats balked at spending anything less than $2 trillion, even knowing the GOP senate would never sign such a bill.
But Pelosi has a lot on the line as well. The Blue Dog Democrats wrote a letter to the House speaker recently, in which they urged her “to continue the discussions over the weekend until a deal is achieved.” They further exhorted “Congress [to] stay here in Washington to keep negotiating.” Congress, in fact, has just left town for a six-week break. That’s how much they care about the American people.
Why the prompting from moderates in her own party? Because in 2018, 31 representatives were elected in districts won by President Trump in 2016.
Those candidates, targeted by the GOP in this cycle, are getting heat from their struggling constituents back home. They need a bill. The political stakes are high on both sides.
Trump was right to reject the House bill produced by Pelosi. It contained too many handouts unrelated to the virus to detail here, such as $250 million for criminal “reentry programs” or $135 million for the National Foundation for the Arts. More important, it dedicated far too much money – $417 billion – to bailing out blue cities and states unable to meet excessive pension and health care promises to public employee unions, like Illinois.
In one version of the bill, aid to the states was to be determined by the number of unemployed persons. One analysis estimated that New York, with unemployment above 12 percent, would receive 55 percent more funds than Florida, for example, even though the Sunshine State has more residents. The reason? Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has done a better job of reopening his state, where unemployment is only 7 percent.
In other words, those states refusing to bring back businesses and put people back to work were to be rewarded. No wonder the bill’s details have not been explored by the media.
The bill allocated $225 billion to the Department of Education. Considering that the entire annual budget for the DOE this year totaled $68 billion, and that schools in many states remain closed, that seems like a giant handout to teacher unions currently balking at going back to work. Especially since, as Betsy McCaughey recently wrote, “only $5 billion, or 2 percent, would go to making schools safer by improving air quality or installing sinks and other hygiene upgrades.”
The bill, like all such legislation, is a mess. It would be far better to pass a targeted, simpler bill sending $1,200 checks to all, $300 unemployment checks to those unable to find work and relief to our airlines. That would keep the recovery bounding ahead, which in turn will put people back to work.
There are those who argue that we do not need more stimulus; it is true the economy is outperforming even the most optimistic expectations and will show growth of better than 30 percent for the third quarter. The latest consumer sentiment report from the University of Michigan beat expectations (again) and reached the highest level in six months. That augurs well for consumer spending going forward, and growth.
Still, there are 12 million people out of work; they deserve help. President Trump is ready to deliver that aid. He just needs Nancy Pelosi to get on board.
Published on The Hill