Pressure works. That’s what we’re learning from the news that congressional negotiators are moving toward a deal on an economic rescue package that includes stimulus checks for individuals.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has now suggested on a private conference call with GOP senators that a key reason for this movement is that the two Georgia Republican senators, both of whom face runoffs in January, are “getting hammered” over Congress’ failure to pass a new rescue bill.

But this news doesn’t just tell us that Republicans are feeling heat from this failure. The likelihood that this played a key role in moving Republicans also underscores how unlikely they are to help the economy and the country next year, if they do retain control of the Senate.

CNN’s Manu Raju reports that on the call with GOP Senators on Wednesday, the Senate Majority Leader said that the lack of stimulus payments has become a big issue in the runoffs:

“Kelly and David are getting hammered” on the issue, he said, according to a source who heard his remarks, a reference to incumbent GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who are both facing off against Democratic challengers.

True, McConnell didn’t explicitly say that this was the direct cause of the sudden new movement toward a deal. But, as Politico’s Jake Sherman reported, McConnell “overtly linked” the emerging agreement to the political needs of Georgia’s two senators.

Indeed, recent history makes it overwhelmingly clear what really happened here.

The overarching fact about this debate is that Democrats have long been pushing for more generous stimulus checks and larger supplemental unemployment insurance payments than this current package includes. By contrast, Republicans have pushed for substantially less than it currently includes.

U.S. congressional leadership met on Dec. 15 to work on a massive government funding bill and end the standoff on coronavirus relief. (Reuters)

The stimulus checks to individuals in the new proposal are reported to be $600 to $700, which is half the $1,200 that Congress passed in its big package last spring. Democrats have since been pushing for a continuation of the larger sum, but Republicans (with a few exceptions) have not been willing to support this.

Meanwhile, the new proposal would reportedly include $300 in weekly supplemental unemployment benefits, which is half the $600 in last spring’s proposal. Here again, Democrats have continued pushing for the larger sum. (The new proposal also lacks badly needed aid to state and local governments.)

What’s changed? Well, as a matter of fact, “Kelly and David” have indeed been getting hammered on this issue. Their Democratic opponents, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, have run numerous ads — see here, here and here — hitting Republicans over the failure to pass more economic assistance.

It’s plainly obvious that this pressure is a key reason that Senate Republicans are now moving towards supporting the economic relief package (which is already far less than the country needs). Indeed, as late as this month, McConnell was still insisting on an even stingier package, one that didn’t include the supplemental unemployment assistance.

The basic question before us right now, as we look ahead to runoffs that will settle who controls the Senate next year, is this: What would continued Republican control mean, and what would it mean if Democrats took control instead?

We have long known the answer: Continued Republican control means almost no chance at anything close to what we’ll need in new stimulus spending and economic assistance next year, when the economic damage and resulting misery could, if anything, spiral into something much worse.

McConnell is now plainly hoping that passing this compromise proposal will obscure this basic truth. But, given that this conversion only came after “Kelly and David got hammered," no one should be fooled — or let him get away with it.

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