Yet if the best hope for senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler is to make the case for the virtues of divided government, someone else is badly undermining that argument, as well: Mitch McConnell.
We’re now learning that the senate majority leader is working hard to try to kill the $908 billion economic rescue package that a bipartisan group of senators is negotiating.
If McConnell succeeds in wrecking this deal, you’d think that would constitute a very strong case against Republican control of the Senate next year.
To be clear, I’m not arguing that if McConnell does kill the deal, it will guarantee that Perdue and Loeffler lose. It probably won’t, given the state’s GOP lean. But it gives Democrats an extremely strong argument for why it should.
According to a senior Democratic aide, McConnell’s staff told staffers working on the $908 billion package that he sees no path to an agreement that trades the liability protections for businesses that McConnell wants for the aid to state and local governments that Democrats want. McConnell’s people communicated that no such deal will be acceptable to Republicans.
This development — which Politico first reported — is a serious problem. Democrats are adamant that the deal’s $160 billion in aid to state and local governments remain, since they are getting absolutely hammered fiscally, having shed more than a million jobs, further dragging down the recovery.
By all appearances, this represents McConnell trying to scuttle the deal precisely because it appears to be advancing. Arthur Delaney reports that the bipartisan senators working on it have reached an agreement on how to distribute that $160 billion to states through a needs-based formula, something I’ve confirmed as well.
Those senators are now working on a compromise on liability protections. Democrats vociferously oppose this, because it could make workers even more vulnerable to the pandemic in their workplaces with no recourse. But they appear willing to acquiesce to get the deal’s aid to state governments, its limited supplemental unemployment assistance and its help for small businesses.
And so, by insisting that no such exchange can pass muster with Senate Republicans, McConnell appears to be trying to tank the deal before it’s completed.
Whether McConnell’s leaks prove true remains to be seen. Some Republican senators seem to want to be seen doing something as the economic and public health crises spiral deeper into calamity. If a final deal is reached, pressure on them will increase, so McConnell may ultimately fail to kill it. But that appears to be his intention.
If he does succeed, however, that should badly undercut the case that Perdue and Loeffler are making for their selection. Even the mere fact that he’s trying to do this should undercut that case.
Jon Ossoff, who is challenging Perdue, has regularly argued that if Republicans win one or both of the runoffs and hold the Senate, it will essentially kill the possibility of any serious relief package next year, when the coronavirus’s rampage could be even worse and we could be in recession.
If McConnell kills the deal now, he’ll be confirming that point rather emphatically. Why would anyone assume McConnell will be more open to a deal next year, when he will surely be hoping to cripple Biden’s presidency with the terrible politics of a miserable recovery?
All of this gets to a deeper point about the case from Perdue and Loeffler for divided government.
What, exactly, are Perdue and Loeffler actually offering voters when they say divided government will serve as a check on Biden?
Well, if you look at the ads that outside GOP groups are running — see this one or this one — a big part of it is a check on an absurdly lurid set of fictions about what an unchecked Biden will supposedly do: defund the police and allow mobs to burn down cities and demolish property, instill “radical” and “socialist” rule, and so forth.
Is this really what Republicans are promising that divided government is supposed to bring to voters?
If McConnell does kill the deal, then the message is that a Republican-controlled Senate will not even provide a paltry economic rescue package — one that has no direct stimulus payments to individuals — at a time of dire need for the country.
Let it be understood that this is what the promise of divided government really means, then. If all Republicans really are able to argue at this point is that they’ll act as a check on a bunch of absurd fantasies, without doing anything constructive for the country amid a terrible crisis, then one hopes voters will understand that.
McConnell seems confident that they won’t, and that offering a check on all those fictions will be enough. Unfortunately, he may prove right.