Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and two-time popular vote sore loser Donald Trump decided to step in and completely blow up ongoing congressional negotiations on coronavirus relief Tuesday, with a $916 billion proposal that is just simply cruel. While they’re putatively offering $8 billion more than the framework Congress has been using, they would slash the federal unemployment benefits Congress has been talking about, and toss in a measly one-time $600 stimulus check per person.
The proposal was blasted out of the water by Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer released a joint statement saying that, while it was “progress” that McConnell signed off on the $916 billion offer, “the President’s proposal must not be allowed to obstruct the bipartisan Congressional talks that are underway. […] The President’s proposal starts by cutting the unemployment insurance proposal being discussed by bipartisan Members of the House and Senate from $180 billion to $40 billion. That is unacceptable.”
The baseline for unemployment benefits in the bipartisan proposal in Congress is about $180 billion in new federal unemployment benefits, which would supplement standard benefits, which is some states could be as low as $10/week, with $300/week in federal funds. That’s half of what people who’ve lost their jobs in this pandemic were getting under the CARES Act, but $300/week more than Mnuchin and Trump are proposing. Their proposal doesn’t include direct stimulus payments as of yet, but extends various unemployment programs that are set to expire in a few weeks, including the payments to gig and self-employed workers. Mnuchin’s $40 billion in new funding for unemployment extends those programs, and that’s all. Other than the $300 one-time check.
Mitch McConnell and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, of course endorse this proposal. Probably because it’s throwing a monkey wrench into the real efforts by members trying to get something real done. McConnell’s own offer in a proposal last week also included no supplementary federal unemployment payments or direct payments. It’s been 207 days since the House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act, and 69 days since the House passed their compromise $2.2 trillion bill, both of which McConnell has refused to consider.
What we’re seeing now from McConnell and from Mnuchin is nothing more than meddling, attempting to distract and delay to make sure things get as desperate as possible to try to force Democrats to swallow a shit sandwich at the last minute. All the while blaming Democrats.