It's been 184 days since the House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act, and 45 days since the House passed their compromise $2.2 trillion bill, both of which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to take up. On Dec. 11, the continuing resolution that's been funding the government since the end of September expires and there are just 14 legislative days on the calendar for the rest of the year. Yowza.
So there're just a few things—outside of Trump's refusal to concede—that Congress has to deal with and absolutely nothing to suggest that McConnell will bow to pressure to do something, anything to help a suffering nation. Not if it makes Joe Biden's first term in office any simpler. As of now, the government funding and coronavirus stimulus issues are separate. Congress's chief appropriators, Rep. Nita Lowey in the House and Sen. Richard Shelby in the Senate, have been talking about doing an actual omnibus spending bill for the remainder of the fiscal year, rather than just kicking the can a few months down the road with another continuing resolution (CR). That's a stretch in the best of times, which is why the nation is currently funded by a CR, and probably not possible in such a short time frame that also includes (almost forgot this part) campaigning for the runoff election for the two outstanding Georgia Senate seats on Jan. 5.
Already, House Republicans are resisting an omnibus bill, and raising questions about whether Trump would even sign one. It's also a question whether he'd sign another CR or a coronavirus stimulus package, when it comes down to it. If Trump really wants to upend the nation and the election (states have to certify the election by Dec. 8, the electoral college votes Dec. 14, the formal joint session of Congress to declare the official results is Jan. 6) he can refuse to fund the government. Whether enough Republicans in Congress would be nihilistic enough to refuse to override his veto is an actual question. Because it is 2020 and anything, absolutely anything, could happen.
On coronavirus relief, McConnell has yet to budge in his rhetoric and he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi haven't had any recent talks. Trump did tweet out one of his usual exhortations on Saturday: "Congress must now do a Covid Relief Bill. Needs Democrats support. Make it big and focused. Get it done!" Never mind that "big" and "focused" are in direct opposition right now—Pelosi wanting "big" and McConnell wanting "focused." Who knows what Trump wants, other than to magic away election results and pretend like he's not going to be vulnerable to prosecution in New York State in 64 days.
Who knows at this point what any of this means for the next month. The only thing certain is that as cases and hospitalizations and deaths from coronavirus surge, as states increasingly have to shut down again, the economic pain increases even more. Thousand upon thousands of people face hunger, eviction, and financial ruin. And the obstruction of McConnell is making it worse. "More businesses will be at risk of permanently going out of business, which would dampen labor demand and potentially spur new rounds of layoffs. This suggests the labor market recovery could meaningfully slow or even reverse in coming months as the country tries to get the virus under control," economists at Bank of America warned last week.
That apparently is a feature and not a bug of McConnell's plan to obstruct assistance. He wants to hamstring the Biden administration before it even begins. He doesn't care who—or how many—suffer in the offing.
Published with permission of Daily Kos