Relief Bill's Endgame In Sight

[ Posted Wednesday, August 5th, 2020 – 17:19 UTC ]

We are (hopefully) fast approaching the end of the Kabuki theater currently being played out over the next coronavirus relief bill. Nobody knows how long this will take, but my guess is that by the end of the upcoming weekend (or perhaps by Monday at the latest), Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are going to announce that the White House has agreed to most of what they have been proposing, and the bill will then pass both houses of Congress and be signed by President Trump at some point next week.

This may be overly optimistic, of course. But I am betting that over the course of the next two days, Trump is going to tell his negotiators to just get a bill -- any bill -- onto his desk as soon as possible. I say this because tomorrow we'll get another weekly count of how many people have filed for unemployment over the past week, and then on Friday the official monthly unemployment rate will be announced for July. Both numbers will in all likelihood not be good news for Trump.

The past three weeks have already reversed the upward trend in employment, as multiple states have had to either pause or reverse course on reopening their economies. At the start of the pandemic's economic crisis, millions of Americans were filing for unemployment each week. This number shrank over time to 1.3 million per week, but then headed back upwards, to 1.4 million and then a bit above 1.4 million last week. If tomorrow's number also increases, it is going to plainly show that -- unlike what Republicans have been saying -- people are not going back to work not because they are getting $600 extra unemployment money each week but because there are no jobs to go back to. The monthly unemployment rate will perhaps not be as bad, but this is because it is calculated from data gathered only during the first two weeks of the month. And the states didn't really start shutting back down in earnest until the later part of July.

Even so, one organization that tracks (and predicts) unemployment trends is now estimating that only 170,000 jobs were added to the economy in July. In a normal month, that would be a slightly-disappointing number. But this is not a normal month, of course. Tens of millions of jobs were lost, so a decent number under the circumstances would have to be in the millions of new jobs added -- as indeed happened during June. Adding only 170,000 jobs is going to mean the unemployment rate stays pretty close to where it was in June. It could go very slightly up or even slightly down, but we're not going to see the dramatic improvement it showed in June.

Both of these numbers are going to point to a very worrisome economic trend -- a double-dip recession. The economy tanked, then things got a little better for a while, and now it's about to head back downward again. Right before election season. And the only real way to fix this in the short term is to shovel an enormous amount of money directly into the economy as quickly as possible. Coincidentally, that's precisely what the Democratic relief bill does. So Trump is going to face the choice of either (1) watching the economy tank once again right before the election, or (2) join with the Democrats in trying to avoid this fate. Since his own political interests are pretty clear, the second choice is really the only lifeline he's got left to grasp.

Trump, of course, isn't all that interested in the details of the legislation. He's got a few of his own pet ideas, but most of them aren't even supported by fellow Republicans (such as rebuilding the F.B.I. building, or a payroll tax holiday), so they'll all be scrapped. As for the rest of it, the only thing Trump is likely to even pay attention to is the total price tag, which is where the last-minute haggling will take place. Democrats have proposed more then $3 trillion, the Republicans countered with $1 trillion, so it is likely that the final bill will contain at least $2 trillion. It might even go higher than that, because as I said Trump isn't all that interested in the details. When Trump realizes that the only way he's ever going to get re-elected is if this bill passes, then he'll tell his negotiators to make it happen no matter what the price tag happens to be.

This is why Pelosi and Schumer have been sticking to their original plan and refusing to give in to the White House's current demands for stinginess. The longer this goes on, the worse it is for Trump. Democrats passed their bill a full eleven weeks ago and Republicans did absolutely nothing for nine of those weeks. So it's pretty clear where any blame for missing deadlines now belongs. Democrats are fighting to not only restore the $600 weekly unemployment benefit, but they'll do so retroactively -- meaning people might have to wait a few weeks to get their money, but it will arrive soon and (importantly) in full. So missing the deadline isn't as vital as it now might seem.

Passing any bill through Congress is going to require overwhelming Democratic support, because the Republicans have made themselves irrelevant to the process. In the House, Democrats have already passed their bill with only a single GOP vote. They won't need any Republicans to pass whatever compromise Pelosi strikes now, either. Over in the Senate, Mitch McConnell can't even get any bill passed, because around 20 Republican senators aren't going to vote for any bill at all. This means McConnell is going to need more Democrats than Republicans to get any bill passed. This is why the Democrats have the upper hand in these negotiations -- because Republicans are so woefully incapable of action, even during the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression. The past eleven weeks have clearly shown which party is serious about tackling the problem, and which party is not.

With Democrats being so necessary to passing anything, they are going to be the ones to write the lion's share of the bill. The longer Trump's negotiators refuse to accept this reality, the more time goes by with no bill at all. And each day brings us closer to the election.

The next two days are going to bring a whole lot of commentary from economists as to what the country can expect in the next few months. If the numbers are bad, the predictions are going to be dire. If the numbers are really bad, then the political pressure is going to become absolutely impossible for Trump to ignore.

This is why I don't think this negotiation stall game is going to continue much longer. Trump is gaining absolutely nothing by the extended delay, people are already getting checks without the $600 in them, and the economy is teetering on the brink of heading downward again in a big way. The window of opportunity is fast closing, in other words. And my guess is that once this fact sinks in, Trump is going to start yelling at his negotiators to get something done as quickly as possible. So it wouldn't surprise me to hear an agreement announced this weekend, or by Monday at the latest. This is all pure speculation, of course, but at this point that's how I see the endgame playing out.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


41 Comments on “Relief Bill's Endgame In Sight”

  1. [1] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Are the twenty or so GOP Senators who won't vote for any bill at all doing so out of concern (or at least the appearance of concern) over the Federal deficit?

    If that's the case I betcha every-stinking-last-one of them voted for Trump's Tax cut in 2017. In fact, I doubt that any sitting Repug ever voted against any of these disasterous giveaways to the rich.

    And I'd hope and expect that any Democrat running against said Repugs would endlessly hammer them with the following, er, Talking Point:

    You know, Senator [insert GOP Senator name] was always ready to give his/her rich Masters a budget busting tax cut. But when it came time to help regular Americans
    literally survive the Trump Virus all of the sudden they care deeply about the deficit.

    As always, people, use this talking point responsibly!

  2. [2] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    It seems that Repugs only care about the deficit when they're opposing Democrats who are stuck cleaning up the mess the last Repug Administration left behind.

  3. [3] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Heya CW, how were my very first two attempts at "Talking Points?" Too wordy? Top obvious?

    If nobody shows up in this comments section I could slam a pot of coffee and keep writing. Hit me up!

  4. [4] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    It all sounds about right - your speculation on how the endgame of this odd negotiation will play out.

    But I do question your unending application of agency to the president. As you tell it, or call it, he is the one who is going to read the labor reports, understand the importance of avoiding a second dip in the economy in the fall, and pressure his party to cave to the Dems in order to preserve the slightest chance of his re-election.

    Really? Trump is a political mastermind, even now? He reads reports? He calculates employment curves vs. popularity and polls? He decides to put on the screws or to wait it out?

    I don't believe it for a second. My take on your commentary is, right ... but.

    But stop saying it's Trump doing all the coordinating of the resolution that is to come, and likely come soon. It's his staff, both White House and campaign, that are going to do 1) the reading 2) the calculating 3) the odds-judging 4) the political bean counting and 5) the simplification of the entire issue into a five-minute briefing along the lines of, "Sir you have to do A or you'll lose this fall because B, C, D.* (*A, B, C, D, are simple declarative sentences using only nouns and verbs, and employing vocabulary the president has already shown he more or less can cognitively react to.)

    At that point of course the stable genius nods and gets on the phone and does A - unless he screws it up, again. A is probably what you said: Mitch, make the deal that Nancy and Chuck want so I can have a signing ceremony by Wednesday, and I don't care what it costs. If you don't do what I say, I'll rip you and all you guys apart on Twitter and Fox. Losers. Listen, I've read those reports and thought about it a lot and I know I'm right.

    And his staff goes out and gets drunk. Again.

  5. [5] 
    SF Bear wrote:

    #4 John M from Ct. left out a step. You credit Mr. Trump with too much agency to even decide when spoon feed information by his staff. The way it really works is staff calls up Hannity and tells him what he needs to say so Mr. Trump will see it on Fox News. Then, and only then, will Trump know what to do.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I just read the Atlantic piece on the US response to Pandemic I. (sorry, I won't get to the Biden piece tonight)

    Hopefully, some very important lessons are being learned about what it means to be an American and how to build back better, far better than the normal that paved the way for a less than heavyweight virus to ravage the country.

    While reading, a strange idea kept popping in and out of my head. What if this novel coronavirus ends up being the thing that sets America on a new course toward a more united country - less politically polarized, more caring and equitable, with better health systems and more social justice? What if all nations similarly built back better?

    I will always remember the wise words of Dr. Tedros, the Director General of the World Health Organization, mostly because he has been repeating it almost every day since the beginning ... the antidote to this virus is global solidarity and national unity; solidarity, solutions, science; quarantine the politicization of COVID-19. Words to live by.

    I will take issue with just one assertion made in this piece:

    "The United States has correctly castigated China for its duplicity and the WHO for its laxity ..." The Atlantic staff writer on science, Ed Yong, doesn't explain what he meant by 'laxity' but, in any event, it was an extremely poor word choice to describe WHO and betrays a certain ignorance with regard to the operational structure of the WHO and the role it plays in protecting global health.

    Suffice to say that when all of the after action reports are written and dissected by the WHO and by all of its member states, WHO's response to Pandemic I under the strong leadership of its DG will stand up well as compared to the rest of the world and most especially well when compared to the US response.

  7. [7] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    If you remember CW's column: Trump's Fauci Envy he mentions a doctor that Trump is into with strange notions including the harmful effects of having sexual relations with demons and witches while dreaming. A medieval history blog I follow is on the story and brings us On Sex with Demons. Just to add historical context....

  8. [8] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    I've learned that there's always at least one silver lining to even the worst situation. Sometimes you have to look very hard with creativity but it (or they) are always there.

    Coronavirus has exposed the myriad problems America has after 40 years of Reaganism®. And thanks to Trump beating Hillary us Progressives are awake and outraged.

    A Hillary victory would've been more of the Corporatist baloney Slick Willy and subsequently Obama gave us. America will end up a far better place (and sooner) because of Coronavirus and Trump.

    And in the end bleeping Trump is gonna end up holding the soap bar with both tiny hands in the prison shower. So there's that to look forward to.

  9. [9] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    Trump and the Trumpettes might be safer in prison than walking the streets, the biggest danger to them likely being a disillusioned and disappointed ex-cultist.

  10. [10] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    "It will go away like things go away"

    Big Money Joe should be itching to get on a debate stage with Fat Donny, but there's no way he should agree to any changes in the debate schedule. He's in the driver's seat and it'll rattle the orange one to be told no.

    You really have to wonder about Word Salad Don's campaign advisors. Do they really think it's a good idea to give him more opportunities to look foolish?

  11. [11] 
    TheStig wrote:

    The US approach to COVID management is devolving into the Seinfeld Rule: No hugging, no learning.

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Question ...

    The US is quite obviously in desperate need of a massive investment in its health systems and that goes double for its public health architecture.

    Now is the time to be making this investment ... not sometime down the road, if ever.

    May I assume that there will be ample funds in this relief bill for health systems and public health architecture?

  13. [13] 
    Kick wrote:

    A huge priority of the Democrats had better include an extension on the 2020 census. The Trump administration is attempting to end it early in order to hijack the process.

  14. [14] 
    dsws wrote:

    CW, previous [19]

    Ever since Trump tried to split this hair, the White House has fallen back on distinguishing "universal mail-in voting" as what Trump was originally talking about. But he wasn't

    My pedantry should never be taken as suggesting that Trump is right about anything. I assume that there's no point in trying to fix what the bad guys say. It's unsalvageable. If I ever think he's said or done something right, I say so explicitly.

  15. [15] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    You really have to wonder about Word Salad Don's campaign advisors. Do they really think it's a good idea to give him more opportunities to look foolish?

    If Trump is trailing this bigly in the polls when the "to debate or not to debate" decision time comes, Trump absolutely will debate Joe.

    First, in Trump's mind he never looks foolish. And second, the debates would be his last chance to change the trajectory of the election so he'd really have no choice but to give it a shot.

    BTW, why do you take the extra keystrokes to type Big Money Joe but you don't type Big Money Donnie? Did I miss the news that Trump has, in desperation, decided to do One Demand?


  16. [16] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    As much as I hate it that Trump will have Secret Service protection if he gets out of prison before he dies (c'mon SDNY!) it is part of the American way.

    It'll be the Trumpettes who lack said protection that will be SOL. I can easily see someone like Bill Barr finding himself at the wrong end of large caliber handgun, which he deserves IMO.

  17. [17] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    geez man, excusing assassination?

    deserve's got nothing to do with it.

  18. [18] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    and it's big money joe vs. POOR donald.



  19. [19] 
    Kick wrote:


    Interesting and certainly explains the Trump spawn. Nice pictures too that make the demons easily identifiable: They're all... [rephrase] they all have horns. :)

  20. [20] 
    Kick wrote:


    And in the end bleeping Trump is gonna end up holding the soap bar with both tiny hands in the prison shower. So there's that to look forward to.

    Oh, I wouldn't count on that "prison and soap bar" scenario if I were you. Remember that rich people in America generally can wangle their way out of prison by cutting deals and money exchanging hands. On the rare occasion you see a billionaire in prison it will be because he swindled a bunch of other rich people: Bernie Madoff, for instance.

    Trump has the issue of his obvious mental illness with which to bargain his way out of prison also. Additionally, I cannot imagine the United States putting a former president in prison. House arrest? Yes. Prison? I can't picture it. Having said all that, I do hope I'm wrong. :)

  21. [21] 
    Kick wrote:

    John From Censornati

    Big Money Joe should be itching to get on a debate stage with Fat Donny, but there's no way he should agree to any changes in the debate schedule. He's in the driver's seat and it'll rattle the orange one to be told no.

    I know, right!? Here we go again with the BS "debate games" where if the opponent doesn't agree they're "afraid to debate"... such standard election year BS drivel and spew. If I were JB, I wouldn't agree to the standard three presidential debates unless Trump agreed to release the standard amount of tax returns.

    You really have to wonder about Word Salad Don's campaign advisors. Do they really think it's a good idea to give him more opportunities to look foolish?

    As long as Trump doesn't have to read anything, he can lie his way through anything and insist he's correct. The gullible rubes eat that crap up.

    Meanwhile, if Trump is required to read:

    * Trump's Best Words: 2019 Edition

    * Trump's Best Words: Coronavirus Briefing Edition... 1917!

  22. [22] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller

    May I assume that there will be ample funds in this relief bill for health systems and public health architecture?

    You may assume whatever you want, but don't be surprised if people confuse you for a member of the Trump cult of gullible Trumpanzees. ;)

    Of course, the CARES Act provided $100,000,000,000 for such funding, but I have no idea what'll end up in this latest bill. It better extended the census.

  23. [23] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Why do you take the extra keystrokes to type Big Money Joe but you don't type Big Money Donnie?

    You-know-who is not trolling Republicons. He told me so. But aside from that, I'm backing Big Money Joe and I don't care if he raises more money than any politician in the known universe ever has. Drumpf's gotta go.

  24. [24] 
    Kick wrote:


    It'll be the Trumpettes who lack said protection that will be SOL. I can easily see someone like Bill Barr finding himself at the wrong end of large caliber handgun, which he deserves IMO.

    We wish them all a long life and not a single untoward ending among them. Death is the path of least resistance... so cheers to their good health and long and infinitely harder living. The wheels of justice turn slow, but turn they do and turn they are. :)

  25. [25] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Although I'm backing Big Money Joe, I wish the Dems had nominated somebody else and his apparent short list of two for the VP slot really turns me off.

  26. [26] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    nypoet22 wrote:

    geez man, excusing assassination?

    deserve's got nothing to do with it.


    Kind Sir, I am in no way, shape or form excusing assassination. Although assassination has been a time dishonored part of American politics, there can be no excuse for political assassination, no no no!

    I am, however, definitely encouraging it.

  27. [27] 
    Kick wrote:

    Deranged Donald reports on Joe Biden

    He's going to do things that nobody ever would ever think even possible because he's following the radical left agenda:

    * Take away your guns
    * Destroy your Second Amendment
    * No religion
    * No anything
    * Hurt the Bible
    * Hurt God
    * He's against God
    * He's against guns
    * He's against energy, our kind of energy.

    I don't think he's going to do too well in Ohio.

    ~ Donald Trump

    This definitely fits my definition of "desperate." Well, I will say that Trump is correct that "nobody ever would ever think" it's "even possible" that Biden (or any mere mortal) could "hurt God." Cue the "Go Fund Me" pages to raise money to protect God "Almighty." Did y'all Christians hear that? Donald Trump thinks your God can be hurt by a mortal; y'all paying attention out there? If Biden can "hurt God," isn't that the kind of man we want/need sitting in the Oval office?

    Why doesn't Trump just tell the gullible rubes that he thinks they're infinitely ignorant and terminally stupid and save himself a whole lot of time and screaming? Just saying.

  28. [28] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Kick wrote:

    If I were JB, I wouldn't agree to the standard three presidential debates unless Trump agreed to release the standard amount of tax returns.

    This is a superb idea! Joe does not have anything close to Cheetogod's motivation to debate in the first place. He could hang out in the basement for the next 80-ish days and I don't see it costing him any serious chunk of votes.

    Joe (or Lincoln Project -- my God I have the highest respect and appreciation for their good works) should hammer on Trump's promise to release his tax returns after audit, and hook it to Joe's willingness to debate.

  29. [29] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    It's there video of long ago Trump saying, "If I ever ran for president I'd run as a Republican, because Republican voters will believe anything!"

    That's a campaign as ad that writes itself!

  30. [30] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Who's on Biden's short list - I haven't been following along.

  31. [31] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:
  32. [32] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    This is from an American Enterprise Institute Resident Scholar. The article is titled and subtitled, "I’ve Witnessed the Decline of the Republican Party

    Over five decades, the GOP has transformed into something I no longer recognize.."

    Mind you, AEI is an organization that no one would confuse with "Liberal."

    Nothing has been more striking or significant than the transformation of the Republican Party, from a moderately conservative party to a very conservative party to something else entirely.

    ...America’s crisis of governance has been driven by a party that my colleague Tom Mann and I, long before Trump, described as an insurgent outlier in American politics. “It is ideologically extreme,” we wrote in 2012; “scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

  33. [33] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    MtnCaddy [1] -

    Yep, and yep.

    Nice talking point, too.


    [3] -

    Both pretty good. I liked the first one better, seemed more visceral.

    John M from Ct. [4] -

    No, no, no.

    Here's more what I had in mind:

    Trump ignores all data, all reports, and all of what his negotiation minions tell him. Instead, he watches TV. When he sees himself and the GOP bearing the lion's share of blame and gets frustrated over all the "Family X is now being evicted after losing their $600 a week" news reports, and when he hears all the economists saying the third quarter is not going to save him politically if a relief bill doesn't pass, then he has a tantrum. He calls his minions in and tells them to put a bill on his desk no matter what it costs and no matter what Pelosi puts in it.

    That's when things will start to happen. But it has nothing -- nothing -- to do with Trump actually reading or understanding anything. Sorry if I somehow gave that impression!

    SF Bear [5] -

    You simplified the process even more. And you're most likely right, too.

    BashiBazouk [7] -

    Thanks for the link! Now that's what I like to see -- comments from people who follow things like Medieval history online on a regular basis! And, no, I'm not kidding, I am being completely serious. Comments like these seem like a breath of fresh air, if everyone knows what I mean...


    John From Censornati [10] -

    I know -- especially after that Axios interview, right? The look on Trump's face when someone dared to contradict his nonsense was priceless. And we'll see that look plenty of times during each and every debate, that's my guess!

    TheStig [11] -

    Should that have been "no leaning"? Just askin'...

    Kick [20] -

    Good points. But I'd bet it won't be "the United States" but "the state of New York," iffn' ya know what I mean...

    LizM [30] -

    The reports are that he's down to Harris or Rice. I personally don't believe these reports, though. The closer we get to an actual announcement, the more they try to misdirect everyone so it'll be a big surprise. That's the way it usually works, although it might be different this time around.


  34. [34] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    MtnCaddy [32] -

    You know, I read that quote in someone else's article (Washington Post maybe?) in the last few days, and the accuracy of the prediction struck me, too. Thanks for providing the original source...


  35. [35] 
    Kick wrote:

    Chris Weigant

    Good points. But I'd bet it won't be "the United States" but "the state of New York," iffn' ya know what I mean...

    You don't think they're after Trump, do you? *snicker* Yes, sir. I might have mentioned that a time or two hundred since 2017:

    ... because when people think the game is nearly over, it'll just be getting started... and in the end, some of the Red team is going to jail.

    These little town blues are melting away
    I'm gonna make a brand new start of it in old New York
    A-a-a-nd if I can make it there, I'm gonna make it anywhere
    It's up to you, New York, New York. :)

    [Wednesday, August 9th, 2017 at 12:35 UTC]

  36. [36] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Well, Susan Rice is the only one who makes sense to me.

    I'll be extremely disappointed if Harris is the choice.

    Howeve, Biden knows far better than me who his running mate should be, so ... I defer.

  37. [37] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    What I meant to say is that Susan Rice makes the most sense of all of the names that have been mentioned.

  38. [38] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    From a recent Comments section...

    Elizabeth, no need to abuse alcohol to excess on election night. Although having the next couple of days off work to watch the results and exit polling results come in is a good choice. I write this because,

    (1) We're going to have a pretty good indication (from pre election polling) as to whether the race will even be close. I'd wager that it won't be a question of if Joe wins but rather how bigly Joe wins, and whether Democrats take the Senate or not. And whether Trump gets even 8% of the black vote as he did in 2016. I still think it's Joe's race to lose.

    (2) Alcohol isn't the appropriate choice, for it will likely amplify your fears (they say that judgement is the first thing to go when you're getting drunk.)

    May I suggest a fine cannabis product? Indica makes one fall asleep on the couch so I'd go with the more energizing Sativa (better for the head and it won't make you go to bed.)

    If'n you can get it for $5 a gram, so much the better!

    Bombs away!

  39. [39] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:



    Nothing but helpful in Southern California

  40. [40] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    LizM [30],

    Rice and Harris.

  41. [41] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    AS much as I'd like Elizabeth (Warren, not Miller -- but only because the haters would have such a big problem with her Canadian citizenship,) if it's down to Rice or Harris...

    Harris is a talented politician and she does hail from my State of Kalifornication. But I think she's just a little too unseasoned compared to Susan Rice to be my choice between the two.

    Both are women, and women of color, so that checks two critical boxes. Rice is more ready to be President than Harris, and has the same "associated with Obama" thang as does Joe. I think that makes her a slightly stronger political choice of the two.

    Remember, the Repugs will continue to do everything they can to suppress the vote, especially the vote of people of color (who have no place in the GOP.)

    SO getting these folks super energized is crucial to not only the Presidential race but all up and down the ballot.

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