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Hope fades for more stim­u­lus re­lief

Fight heat­ing up over Supreme Court seat likely de­rails chances for another pack­age

- Christal Hayes, Michael Collins and Ni­cholas Wu US Elections · U.S. News · US Politics · Politics · Elections · Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · Washington · Congress of the United States · Ruth Bader Ginsburg · U.S. Supreme Court · Donald Trump · Republican Party (United States) · United States Senate · Democratic Party (United States) · Joe Biden · Indiana · Christopher A. Coons · Delaware · John Cornyn · Texas · Mitch McConnell · Charles Schumer · New York · Mark Meadows · White House · White House Press Secretary · Nancy Pelosi · California · Princeton University · Princeton University · Hakeem Jeffries · U.S. Treasury · Steven Mnuchin · Kayleigh McEnany

WASH­ING­TON – The slim chances Congress will pass another coro­n­avirus stim­u­lus pack­age ap­pear to have got­ten even more mi­nus­cule be­cause of the par­ti­san brawl erupt­ing over fill­ing Ruth Bader Gins­burg’s seat on the Supreme Court.

Gins­burg’s death Fri­day im­me­di­ately sparked a po­lit­i­cal fight over when Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s yet-to-be-named nom­i­nee would come up for a vote. Since then, Wash­ing­ton has be­come con­sumed by the Repub­li­can-led Se­nate’s de­sire to ap­prove Trump’s pick quickly – pos­si­bly be­fore the Nov. 3 elec­tion – and Democrats’ ef­forts to stop it in hopes Joe Bi­den de­feats Trump.

“I think it gets in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult,” Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., ex­plained Mon­day about the prospects of pass­ing a stim­u­lus bill.

For months, Amer­i­cans have held out hope Congress would come to a deal af­ter many of the ben­e­fits it ap­proved this spring to counter COVID-19’s im­pacts ran out. An ex­tra $600 weekly un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fit ex­pired in July, a loan for­give­ness pro­gram for small busi­nesses also dried up and Amer­i­cans haven’t seen an

“We should be fo­cus­ing on pan­demic re­lief. Is that pos­si­ble?”

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.

stim­u­lus check.

Both par­ties have stressed the need for gov­ern­ment re­lief to help Amer­i­cans weather the pan­demic. Yet nei­ther Repub­li­cans nor Democrats have budged from their po­si­tions, lead­ing to a now month­s­long im­passe and with both sides blam­ing the other over the gap in re­lief. The fight over a new jus­tice ap­pears to have only height­ened those ten­sions.

Top Democrats and White House ne­go­tia­tors spent weeks de­bat­ing the size and scope of coro­n­avirus stim­u­lus leg­is­la­tion, with Democrats in­sist­ing on at least $2 tril­lion in aid and Repub­li­cans of­fer­ing smaller bills, the most re­cent of which to­taled about $300 bil­lion.

Both sides have been hung up on a host of is­sues. Democrats have pushed to ex­tend a weekly $600 added un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fit while Repub­li­cans have of­fered $300 and $200 in dif­fer­ent pro­pos­als. Democrats have ad­vo­cated for fund­ing for strug­gling state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments, while Repub­li­cans have pushed back on that idea, cit­ing wor­ries over the fed­eral deficit and claims the money would bail out mis­man­aged Demo­cratic cities.

The dif­fer­ences over pri­or­i­ties weren’t the only hur­dle. Congress is sched­uled to break for re­cess in early Oc­to­ber ahead of the elec­tions.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the high court fight “adds com­plex­ity” to the stim­u­lus de­bate. “We don’t have a whole of time,” he added, not­ing he wanted a deal be­fore the cur­rent fis­cal year ends Sept. 30.

Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, out­side the Capitol on Mon­day, told re­porters, “We should be fo­cus­ing on pan­demic re­lief. Is that pos­si­ble?”

The Demo­crat con­tin­ued, “Six months ago, we passed unan­i­mously a big bi­par­ti­san pan­demic re­lief bill. Four months ago the House acted. Ma­jor­ity Leader (Mitch) McCon­nell hasn’t even been in the ne­go­ti­a­tions, so how we close that gap eludes me.”

McCon­nell has promised to bring Trump’s nom­i­nee to the Se­nate floor and has said he has plenty of time to ap­prove a ju­di­cial pick be­fore Elec­tion Day.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said McCon­nell “derus

“This stim­u­lus could be House driven.” Mark Mead­ows White House Chief of Staff

filed” the cham­ber and that mov­ing for­ward on a Supreme Court nom­i­na­tion would “de­stroy the in­sti­tu­tion of the Se­nate.”

“It’s cre­ated a lot of mis­trust and ill feel­ing in a way that I haven’t seen it oc­cur in the Se­nate in a very long time,” Schumer said Tues­day at a news con­fer­ence.

But even be­fore Gins­burg’s death, ten­sions were high in Wash­ing­ton, and the prospects of pass­ing another re­lief pack­age were look­ing more un­likely. Both sides had been dead­locked and ap­peared no closer to a deal even af­ter months of ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the White House and con­gres­sional Democrats. Repub­li­cans never took up Democrats’ more than $3 tril­lion bill the House passed in May. The $300 bil­lion of­fer­ing by Repub­li­cans, con­sid­ered a fi­nal at­tempt at any form of re­lief be­fore the elec­tion, was blocked by Democrats Sept. 10.

McCon­nell on Wed­nes­day took is­sue with the at­tacks from Democrats, ex­plain­ing they were act­ing as though the “sky is fall­ing” over the Supreme Court pick, some­thing he has said Democrats would move for­ward with if they held the ma­jor­ity.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple do not need any more re­vi­sion­ist his­tory lec­tures, any more threats or any more per­for­ma­tive out­rage from the side that launched this un­for­tu­nate fight, and es­ca­lated it time af­ter time af­ter time,” he said on the Se­nate floor. “There is one right path be­fore us. It does right by the ju­di­ciary, the Se­nate, the yet-un­named nom­i­nee, and the Amer­i­can peo­ple. It is a fair hear­ing, a fair process and a fair vote.”

White House press sec­re­tary Kayleigh McE­nany cast blame on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who has been lead­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions for Democrats along with Schumer. McE­nany said it’s up to Pelosi to get the ne­go­ti­a­tions mov­ing again, ac­cus­ing her of “en­gag­ing in po­lit­i­cal drama.”

Gov­ern­ment can func­tion in times of deep par­ti­san di­vide, which raises ques­tions about why law­mak­ers have made such lit­tle progress on coro­n­avio­ther re­lief – an is­sue where there is wide­spread pub­lic sup­port, and more im­por­tantly, need, said Lau­ren Wright, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Prince­ton Univer­sity.

“Both par­ties prob­a­bly see the po­ten­tial of a Supreme Court bat­tle to gal­va­nize their base of vot­ers in an elec­tion sea­son, no mat­ter the out­come,” Wright said.

But, she said, rel­e­gat­ing coro­n­avirus re­lief to the back-burner car­ries po­ten­tial costs for both par­ties.

“Supreme Court seats are in­deed im­por­tant to par­ti­sans who pay close at­ten­tion to pol­i­tics and al­ready have strong ide­o­log­i­cal pref­er­ences and attitudes,” Wright said. “But the virus and the de­struc­tion it has caused to ev­ery­day lives and the econ­omy is im­por­tant to a much wider swath of Amer­i­cans, in­clud­ing the in­de­pen­dents and mod­er­ate vot­ers who will be crit­i­cal to 2020 out­comes.”

Amid the bick­er­ing, some law­mak­ers and of­fi­cials have con­tin­ued to ex­press some op­ti­mism that a re­lief bill could still be achieved.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Mead­ows said the nom­i­na­tion of a new Supreme Court jus­tice wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily slow down the ap­proval of a new COVID-19-re­lief pack­age be­cause the stim­u­lus dis­cus­sions are tak­ing place pri­mar­ily in the House, which has no role in con­firm­ing a new jus­tice.

“This stim­u­lus could be House driven,” Mead­ows said Tues­day on FOX Busi­ness Net­work’s Morn­ings with Maria. “We know that Speaker Pelosi is re­ally in con­trol of that, even though it takes the Se­nate to help work on that.”

Mead­ows has sug­gested smaller pieces of leg­is­la­tion to ad­dress re­lief for the air­line in­dus­try, en­hanced un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits or as­sis­tance for small busi­nesses, but Pelosi has re­peat­edly ob­jected to this idea.

House Demo­cratic Cau­cus Chair­man Ha­keem Jef­fries, D-N.Y., said Tues­day the House was still fo­cused on pro­vid­ing re­lief to Amer­i­cans, back­ing Pelosi’s ap­proach in push­ing for a broader bill.

“Our fo­cus re­mains on get­ting a deal so we can pro­vide mean­ing­ful re­lief, in the midst of a deadly pan­demic, to the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” Jef­fries ex­plained. “That is our North Star. And we have con­fi­dence in Speaker Pelosi, one of the best leg­isla­tive ne­go­tia­tors in the his­tory of the Repub­lic.”

Many mod­er­ates have con­tin­ued to de­mand a deal on another pack­age, stress­ing the needs of their con­stituents and putting pres­sure on lead­er­ship, in­clud­ing Pelosi, to come back to the ne­go­ti­at­ing table and bring a bill for­ward. The pres­sure led Pelosi to an­nounce the House would re­main in ses­sion un­til a deal was bro­kered.

While Pelosi has con­tin­ued to talk with Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin, one of the lead White House ne­go­tia­tors on stim­u­lus, the pair have largely fo­cused their dis­cus­sions on com­ing to a deal on a spend­ing bill to avert a gov­ern­ment shut­down at the end of Septem­ber. The House ap­proved a bill Tues­day that would ex­tend cur­rent gov­ern­ment fund­ing lev­els and punt ne­go­ti­a­tions over a num­ber of hot-but­ton is­sues un­til Dec. 11. It now goes to the Se­nate for ap­proval and then, if ap­proved, will head to the White House for Trump’s sig­na­ture.

 ?? SA­MUEL CO­RUM/GETTY IMAGES ?? Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., says the pos­si­bil­ity of pass­ing a coro­n­avirus stim­u­lus bill “gets in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult.”
SA­MUEL CO­RUM/GETTY IMAGES Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., says the pos­si­bil­ity of pass­ing a coro­n­avirus stim­u­lus bill “gets in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult.”

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