Stimulus stalled: While Washington points fingers, out-of-work Americans feel the pain

And nothing got done.

Bipartisanship that led Congress and the White House to act decisively in the spring to help Americans stay afloat as the pandemic got started feels like a distant dream. Rancor has only increased over what’s needed to help Americans as the virus continues to spread and, as of this week, has claimed more than 160,000 American lives.

The White House is still a trillion dollars short of Democrats’ demands for this fourth stimulus, but Trump wants credit for helping people.

Rather than budge on the top-line figure and pass the big bill, Trump held a last-minute news conference in New Jersey Friday night and, with members of his private golf club looking on in a weird sort of news conference/campaign rally, he promised executive actions to extend expanded unemployment benefits, an eviction moratorium and enact a new payroll tax cut.

If he didn’t need Congress to do these things, one wonders why he didn’t do them before now since the expanded unemployment benefits and eviction moratorium expired last month. The President is scheduled to hold another news conference at his Bedminster golf club on Saturday afternoon, where he can be expected to discuss the failed stimulus negotiations and possible executive actions.

The idea of cutting revenue and spending money without the legislature would seem to violate the Constitution.

But Trump’s not concerned about the legality of the actions he promised, which he said lawyers are “drawing up.”

“No, not at all. No. You always get sued,” he said.

The idea of a legal battle over executive actions will be cold comfort to people struggling and out of work and afraid of contracting a virus that continues to rip through the country, despite Trump’s false promise that it will just go away.

Finding creative ways around Congress has been a hallmark of Trump’s time in office, from enacting a travel ban on certain countries to finding money for his proposed border wall even though lawmakers in both parties refused to give it to him.

Democrats are sure to challenge these executive actions as being insufficient and, in the case of the payroll tax cut, which Trump has fixated on, unnecessary, since it will give money to people currently earning a paycheck and not help those put out of work by the pandemic.

And that is setting aside the fact that payroll taxes fund social security, which is already under stress. A holiday from funding the program could make the entitlement, which helps American seniors make ends meet, run out of money in less than 10 years, according to a new report.
While he didn’t share any specific details on the executive actions (Will he expand the unemployment benefits at the $600 level Democrats want or does he agree with his top economic adviser those payments would be a “disincentive to go back to work?”), he was alleging vast conspiracies are what’s stalled the bill.

For instance, Democrats want to give $1 trillion to states and cities gasping to maintain services despite losing much of their tax revenue due to the pandemic.

In that, Trump sees an effort to bilk taxpayers and bail out mismanaged cities.

“They’re really just interested in one thing and that is protecting people that have not done a good job in managing cities and states and nothing to do with Covid or little to do,” he said.

Influencing the election

Trump also made the wild accusation that “The Democrats are cheating on the election” by trying to pass this new stimulus bill.

“Because that’s exactly what they’re doing. If you look at what they’re doing even with these negotiations. That’s an influence, and an unfair influence, on an election,” he said.

It was an awkward charge since it came the same day a US intelligence official issued a statement confirming that Russia is, yet again, attempting to “denigrate” the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden in this case. But it also said China “prefers” that Trump doesn’t win.
The warning was lacking and the public doesn’t know the scale of efforts to influence the election, according to Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who wrote in the Washington Post that he’s seen frightening classified information about Russia’s efforts and that the administration is trying to keep them hidden from public view.

“I was shocked by what I learned — and appalled that, by swearing Congress to secrecy, the Trump administration is keeping the truth about a grave, looming threat to democracy hidden from the American people,” the Connecticut Democrat wrote.

Democrats say the White House needs to budge

Where Trump sees conspiracies holding back the stimulus bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer see intransigence on the part of the White House.

“Meet us in the middle — for God’s sake, please — for the sake of America, meet us in the middle,” Schumer said Friday as talks stalled again.

He and Pelosi pointed the finger at White House chief of staff Mark Meadows for refusing to budge.

“We believe we have a responsibility to find common ground,” Pelosi said. “We’ll come down a trillion and you go up a trillion and we can figure out how we do that without hurting America’s working families,” she said.

On Capitol Hill, Schumer said the math of getting a bill that can pass requires the White House to add more money.

“The House doesn’t have the votes to go south of $2 trillion, the Senate Democrats can’t go south of 2 trillion, so that’s what compromise is all about,” Schumer said. “Because there are 20 Republicans who don’t want to vote anything that doesn’t mean the whole thing should shift in their direction. You have to meet in the middle.”

Nobody is meeting anywhere at the moment, since there are no more talks currently scheduled, according to Meadows.

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