Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters
As the country grapples with the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, news shows are embracing a false Republican narrative that Democrats are to blame for a delay in the renewal of extended economic benefits. The fact is that Republicans waited until the eleventh hour to even make a proposal to begin with, while the Democratic-led House has been passing bills for months.
The economic stakes here are very high, and carry real consequences. With all the economic dislocation from the virus, the Census Bureau announced last week nearly 30 million Americans did not get enough to eat last week. While the extra $600 per week in federal unemployment assistance is keeping many people afloat, there exists the potential for up to 40 million Americans to lose their homes, "four times the amount seen during the Great Recession."
In fact, House Democrats passed a comprehensive relief package all the way back in May, known as the HEROES Act. The House also passed The Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act in June, spun off from the HEROES Act, which provides a $75 billion relief fund for homeowners and extends an eviction and foreclosure moratorium through March 2021.
Senate Republicans waited to engage with these proposals, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) did not unveil the Republican plan until this past Monday, while the country approached the deadline for the federal unemployment benefits. And there also remains a serious danger that Republicans might simply pass just enough aid to get through the election — and then proceed to obstruct further aid for a potential President Joe Biden, just as they blocked stimulus efforts during the Obama years.
The Senate Republican plan, in contrast to Democratic proposals, contains no direct aid for state and local governments, and would condition some of the aid to schools on them reopening. It also includes a "liability shield" to protect reopening businesses from lawsuits, a pet issue for conservatives instead of any worker safety protections.
These facts were often left out of coverage on Sunday.
On Fox & Friends Sunday, however, co-host Pete Hegseth made the claim: "It certainly feels like the urgency is there from Republicans and the White House. They don't want people to suffer, they don't want these benefits to end. Democrats feel like they can hold out. They think ultimately more money is in their interest."
"That's exactly right," responded Fox News correspondent Griff Jenkins, who also repeated claims by Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) that "the Democrats really had no sense of urgency, because they're trying to take advantage of this."
However, if Hegseth and Jenkins had even bothered to read the news coverage at one of Fox News' corporate sister publications, The Wall Street Journal, they would have learned about the real split going on among Senate Republicans, in which "fiscal conservatives recoil at any plan that they see as ballooning the deficit and conditioning the public to expect broader government assistance once the pandemic is over."
Co-host Jedediah Beila also declared, "my patience is slim to none when it comes to politicians on this particular issue," and that Democrats were "pretty despicable."
"And if Democrats are going to sit and say no, to multiple times now Republicans have come to them and said, 'Hey, what about this? What about this temporarily? Let's provide the relief and then have a bigger discussion about this other financing,'" Bila continued. "They're going to keep saying, 'No,' eventually people are going to be aware of who is responsible for this delay, and it's not going to be good for them."
Hegseth concluded the discussion: "Yeah, it feels like they want the chaos and the pain and the lockdowns, right until November 3, because it serves their interests. I think voters are smarter than that, and will see through, we'll see what happens."
But this sort of flim flam wasn't limited to just Fox News. On CNN's State of the Union, guest anchor Dana Bash asked House Majority Whip James Clybrn (D-SC) about Democrats supposedly making a "political play" and "trying to maximize your leverage" in the discussions — to which Clyburn explained that it was Republicans who had run out the clock on this, trying to maximize their own leverage with just short-term fixes.
DANA BASH (GUEST ANCHOR): Senate Republicans did try this past week to pass a one-week extension of the additional $600 a week unemployment benefits. Democrats blocked it. So why not, if it's so needed — and it certainly seems to be — agree to the short-term fix, while you're negotiating a longer deal?
HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Because we need to have a well-coordinated activity here. We passed the HEROES Act in the House. Why won't they then bring the HEROES Act, or whatever part of it they would like, to the table? They won't do it. They passed out the so-called HEALS Act — I don't remember exactly what it stood for — but not even anything for state and local governments, nothing for unemployed people. That's why we won't do it.
BASH: Right, well, that's understandable. But that's what you're negotiating about, right? So isn't it just all frankly a political play to not allow the at least one-week extension, while you're trying to maximize your leverage?
CLYBURN: Well, Dana, we're always trying to maximize leverage — they are trying to maximize leverage. How long ago did we send them this law we passed in the House? We had it for weeks — they had it for over a month. So they are the ones that are playing games with this. We don't want to jerk the American people around. Let's just lay it out. Ours went all the way into January. I don't know that this is honest negotiation, when you want to leave town and not sit around the table and do what needs to be done for the American people to have some security and some safety in trying to live their lives. And that's what we're trying to do. This every week, one more week, two more days — that's not the way you do things.
Clyburn also appeared on CBS' Face the Nation, and turned back a similar question from guest host John Dickerson by pointing out the other kinds of proposals that Republicans have put in, which are clearly not worth much in terms of fighting the economic insecurity caused by the virus.
JOHN DICKERSON (GUEST HOST): But sometimes you can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And wouldn't it be good to get those people who have just been getting gut punch after gut punch, now don't have the help that they expected, why not give them —OK, it may not be perfect, give them a little something now while Congress works out the rest?
HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Well, I just think that they are not doing any earnest negotiations yet. I don't know, I'm not in the room, so I don't know if they've take FBI building off the table. They had that in there. Did they take the business — 100% deduction for business lunches — off the table? I don't know if they've done that. Have they put state and local support on the table? I don't know. So it's a little bit difficult for me to say what is or is not what I would call earnest discussions, because I don't know where those things are.
On ABC's This Week, co-host Martha Raddatz's questions to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also hewed close to the Republican line.
"Democrats did turn down offers of a short-term extension," Raddatz said, followed by playing a clip of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. "So, what do you say to those 30 million Americans who are now without federal unemployment help?"
"Well, I say to them, talk to President Trump. He's the one who is standing in the way of that," Pelosi answered. "We have been for the $600. They have a $200 proposal, which does not meet the needs of America's working families … So, the idea that they made a proposal is really not actually factual."
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