This is what McConnell wants to obscure. Because as he has privately admitted, the failure of Congress to deliver a robust aid package to people is putting his Georgia Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R) and David Perdue (R) at risk.
So McConnell wants voters — especially those in Georgia — to believe Republicans supported generous aid all along, particularly the stimulus checks in the new deal, and that Democrats refused to act to harm President Trump’s reelection campaign.
But the reality is that Democrats were the ones pushing for stimulus checks and robust aid all along, even though it would have helped Trump’s reelection, and McConnell and Republicans were the main obstacles.
The timeline is clear
The last time Congress acted was last spring when it passed the $2 trillion package, including $1,200 stimulus checks and $600 in weekly supplemental unemployment benefits. It also included aid to state governments and small businesses.
But after that, as a Democrat points out, McConnell repeatedly said over the course of months that he thought many Senate Republicans would not support any more action of any kind going forward.
McConnell said this in late July and in early August, raising pretend-concerns about the deficit (which Republicans exploded with massive corporate tax cuts) to oppose more spending. And in early September, McConnell unveiled his own $500 billion bill. However, it did not contain stimulus checks (though it did offer $300 per week in supplemental unemployment assistance).
It’s true that Democrats opposed McConnell’s proposal. But that’s largely because it did not contain stimulus checks (or aid to state and local governments).
It’s amusing, then, that now that McConnell has decided after many months that he does need stimulus checks to save his Georgia senators, he is casting Democrats as the obstacle to this. It’s up-is-downism at its finest.
In fact, McConnell continued opposing more stimulus checks after House Democrats passed another $2.2 trillion bill in October, which did include $1,200 stimulus payments and $600 in unemployment.
Indeed, at this point, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was actively negotiating with the White House, which seemed far more open to a deal with stimulus checks than McConnell had been. Trump had been expressing a desire for checks, perhaps again hoping to see his name on them.
What’s more, even the White House was divided on this point, with some advisers openly declaring that they did not care if Congress did nothing at all. As economic adviser Larry Kudlow put it, if Congress reaches no deal, “we can absolutely live with it.”
Remember, at this point, Trump and Republicans were proclaiming that the economy was roaring back for reelection purposes. The idea that no rescue package was really necessary was central to that illusion. This, too, exposes the idea that Democrats were the obstacle as absurd.
Confirming the point, as House Democrats and the White House worked for a deal that did include stimulus checks, McConnell announced in mid-October that he would not put it on the floor even if it were reached because GOP senators wanted no more than “half a trillion dollars.”
Even worse, at around that time, McConnell privately urged the White House not to continue negotiating with Pelosi because Republicans didn’t want to vote on the deal, fearing it would divide them, as many still wanted to do little or nothing.
McConnell even acknowledged that a vote would disrupt plans to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court and refused to commit to a vote before Election Day. That wrecks the story McConnell is telling: He opposed a vote before the election, despite his revisionism that Pelosi did not want compromise to hurt Trump.
It was only after a bipartisan group of senators coalesced behind a $900 billion compromise proposal that we saw real movement from McConnell. It’s true that this is when we also saw renewed concessions from Pelosi and Democrats. But this was because Republican senators were finally showing a willingness to move away from McConnell. This persuaded Democrats that doing something more ambitious than McConnell’s meager plan was possible.
It’s also true that McConnell did drop his long-running demand for liability protections for businesses. But this was only in exchange for nixing aid to state governments.
And as the New York Times reports, it came as he “concluded that he needed a deal” to save his Georgia senators, who were “getting hammered” over the failure to deliver stimulus checks. After opposing this for many months, it’s at this point that McConnell agreed to a deal with them.
The crowning insult here is that Loeffler herself opposed supplemental unemployment payments to “limit government dependency,” despite the fact that her family took millions in farm subsidies.
A sabotaged recovery
This gets to the larger truth about this whole episode: Conservative economic orthodoxy — opposition to substantial spending from GOP senators and certain White House advisers — is what largely limited whatthe government did over the last nine months, amid the worst crises in modern U.S. history.
That should make it absolutely clear what continued GOP control of the Senate will mean next year when economic pain — caused in part by that very inaction — could grow even more miserable and widespread.