Instead, the Senate’s Republican majority and the Trump White House are in chaos, unable to produce a coherent relief bill to keep the economy from spiraling further downward.
Republicans admit this.
“It’s a mess,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) of the party’s own ramshackle proposal. “I can’t figure out what this bill’s about.”
A telltale sign of the Republicans’ flight from responsibility is that they waited until the last minute before launching their haphazard scramble because they were hoping to avoid having to do anything.
The Democratic House passed a $3 trillion relief bill on May 15. Did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spend the intervening 10 weeks pulling his troops together for the inevitable counterproposal? No. Republicans offered pipe dreams that maybe covid-19 would abate, maybe the economy would come roaring back on its own . . . maybe, maybe, maybe.
The truth is that the GOP simply hates the idea that Washington should have a big role to play when catastrophe strikes. The GOP never much liked the first rescue packages, strongly shaped by Democrats, even though they helped President Trump’s economic ratings when his poll numbers sagged everywhere else.
“Simply shoveling cash from Washington is not going to solve the problem,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).
Except that in a situation like this, shoveling cash from Washington is exactly what’s required to solve the problem.
Absent help, unemployed people don’t have money to spend, state and local budgets wallow in red ink, health systems are overburdened, hunger rises — and that’s just a sampling of tribulations that can’t be eased without robust federal intervention.
You also sense that some Republicans have already concluded that Trump will lose and are preparing themselves for the post-election recriminations — and never mind the damage that will be done to the economy and people’s lives in the meantime.
Thus did Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) declare that negotiations between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) were “about Democrats and Trumpers competing to outspend each other.” Neat trick: Oppose Trump for being some kind of profligate leftist.
For his part, Trump described the Senate GOP plan as “sort of semi-irrelevant.”
Not that Trump is helping things. The administration’s insistence on slipping into the Senate bill an entirely irrelevant $1.75 billion for a new FBI building is just the latest indication that the president’s only real interest in government relates to how it can serve his private interests.
Executives of the Trump International Hotel down the street have raised fears that the family business would be hurt if the FBI followed an alternative plan to move to the suburbs and demolished the current structure. A developer might well use the existing site to build a competing hostelry. Can’t have that.
The Republican implosion has been a long time coming, and its causes have been documented over many years. In 2012, the political scientists Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, historically respectful of both parties, concluded that the GOP had become “ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” (Disclosure: They’re friends and sometime co-authors, but you can’t write on this subject without citing their brave early protest.)
This year, MSNBC producer Steve Benen persuasively chronicled how Republicans had become a “post-policy” party in his book whose title brings home his point: “The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics.”
And in “Is the Republican Party Destroying Itself?,” also published this year, Harvard professor Thomas E. Patterson points to the GOP’s narrowing demographic and ideological base, its dependence on right-wing media and monied interests, and its “disregard for democratic norms and institutions.” (See: Attorney General William P. Barr’s testimony on Tuesday.)
Having skipped their homework, having spread the coronavirus with a spring break fantasy that bars and restaurants and everything else could open wide, Republicans had the nerve on Wednesday to ask for an extension. Pass a “skinny” bill extending some unemployment insurance provisions and a rent moratorium (without, of course, helping renters pay the rent).
Sorry, but you reach a point when political parties, like wayward students, must be given an F. I hope Republicans will be ready to govern again someday. Right now, the party has earned itself only a multi-year expulsion.