When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi passed a $3.5 trillion coronavirus relief/economic stimulus package in May, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed action on a companion bill, hoping the pandemic would ease and the economy would improve sufficiently so Senate Republicans could respond with a less expansive, expensive package. As the August recess looms, McConnell’s risk has not paid off.
Last week, Senate Republicans and the White House failed to reach agreement on a counteroffer amid disagreement over a variety of issues, including unemployment benefits. The lack of a united Republican position that could facilitate a bipartisan compromise increases the likelihood that enhanced unemployment benefits and eviction moratoria will expire this week.
The miscalculation comes as virus cases and jobless claims rise, helping sour President Donald Trump’s poll ratings for the handling of the pandemic and damaging the Republican brand. McConnell is hoping to bring a package together early this week and begin negotiations with Democrats. The time squandered gives a negotiating advantage to Democrats who may allow Republicans to stew in their disarray.
Last week, Senators passed the Defense authorization and Representatives passed a package of four appropriations bills. This week, the House will pass another seven appropriations while the Senate plans to confirm nominees.
With 100 days remaining in the general election campaign, President Trump has renewed his coronavirus briefings, deployed federal agents to battle protesters and demanded that schools reopen. While his strategy is likely to bolster the enthusiasm of his supporters, it seems unlikely to expand his support elsewhere, especially among suburban voters.
As the election sprint begins, the Cook Political Report marks Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden a favorite over President Trump, rates Senate Democrats probable for a net gain of five to seven seats (they four to win a majority) and gives House Democrats as good a chance at gaining net seats as Republicans.