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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

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Networks Blame Both Parties For Relief Fiasco — And That’s Wrong

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

President Trump signed four executive orders following a congressional gridlock over negotiations about the second COVID-19 relief bill, which Republicans refused to enter into until the eleventh hour. Sunday political broacasts, however, continued with their false equivalency that both parties are to blame and forced the president's hand.

The economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic have been devastating for millions of Americas. The Census Bureau estimated that sometime before July 21, nearly 30 million Americans did not have enough to eat. Millions are still unemployed, and the Congressional Budget Office expects the unemployment rate to remain "elevated" through 2021. Forty million people are reportedly at risk of being kicked out of their homes due to the pandemic, especially as eviction moratoriums across the country come to an end. The ending of enhanced unemployment benefits looks set to become an economic catastrophe.

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Senate Adjourns Without Extending $600 Jobless Benefit

UPDATE: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Friday that he doesn't expect to pass a new coronavirus relief bill before the end of July when expanded unemployment benefits expire. "Hopefully we can come together behind some package we can agree on in the next few weeks," he said at an event in Ashland, KY, according to the Washington Post.

The Republican-controlled Senate left Washington, D.C. without releasing a plan for the next round of coronavirus relief — a move that all but ensures a $600 weekly unemployment insurance benefit millions of Americans have been receiving for months will now expire.

Republicans spent the week fighting among themselves about what should be in the next package of coronavirus relief — and ultimately punted releasing their plan until next week.

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Schumer Bill Would Keep Trump’s Name Off Relief Checks

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On orders from the U.S. Treasury Department, President Donald Trump's name is appearing on millions of $1200 relief checks that Americans are receiving as part of the $2.2 trillion package signed into law in March in response to the coronavirus crisis. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is vehemently opposed to Trump's name appearing on those checks —and Politico's Marianne Levine is reporting that the top Democrat in the U.S. Senate is planning to introduce legislation that would keep the president's name off future coronavirus relief checks.

Levine reports that Schumer's proposal, which is being called the No PR Act, "would prohibit the use of federal dollars toward any material that promotes the names or signatures of Trump or Vice President Mike Pence."

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How Chuck And Nancy Made Moscow Mitch Gag On The Stimulus Bill

One thing we're learning, in our collective sorrow, is how many mayors and governors of both parties there are across America who are infinitely more capable of responding to a crisis than anybody in the White House. New York's Andrew Cuomo, Ohio's Mike DeWine and others have earned justifiable praise for effective leadership throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, although you'd hardly know it due to the relative dearth of press coverage, emergency benefits extended to ordinary citizens by Congress last week could mean economic salvation for millions.

Also largely unknown to the public is that their underappreciated champion has been House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—pointedly excluded from the White House bill signing ceremony along with every other Democrat in Washington.

Such are the political facts of life in a nation under siege.

With TV news networks and their star performers focusing upon Rose Garden theatrics, they've neglected the story of how Pelosi and Chuck Schumer outwitted and outmaneuvered GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to where he felt compelled to admit that "because the country was desperate for results…I literally told my own Republican colleagues to 'gag and vote for it.'"

The final Senate vote was 96-0. That's a lot of gagging.

Unlike the original Republican bill with its proposed $500 billion in corporate bailouts, the $2.2 trillion Pelosi-Schumer effort—formally known as the "Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act,"—added $150 billion for hard-pressed state and local governments, another $150 billion for hospitals, and $31 billion for schools. That and $25 billion for Food Stamps.

To be sure, there's still plenty of cash for Fortune 500 companies, but oversight has been added to prevent its becoming a political slush fund.

However, the real game-changers for hard-pressed families as well as the potential salvation of the US economy are two features many voters are unaware of: paycheck-protection loans enabling small businesses to retain employees for up to eight weeks, and that needn't be repaid; also greatly expanded unemployment insurance for individuals who lose their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The original McConnell bill called for one-time $1200 checks to be sent to every taxpayer—definitely useful, but hardly a bonanza. To that, Pelosi and Democrats added unemployment insurance providing an additional 13 weeks of cash assistance to state-funded programs. The CARE Act also expands eligibility to include part-time, self-employed and so-called "gig economy" workers such as Uber drivers and food delivery services, providing up to $600 a week income for those practicing social distancing.

Do the arithmetic. That's upwards of $10,000 between now and the end of June. With plenty to worry about, people can at least quit obsessing about money. They'll have sufficient funds for rent, food, utilities and other necessities. Nobody's got to risk his or her life to keep the children fed.

(Or pets, for that matter. Around our house there would be hell to pay if Martin and Albert, our two orange tabby rodent consultants, ever glimpsed the porcelain bottom of what we call "the endless supper dish.")

And the best news for the economy is that most of this cash would be spent immediately and locally, bolstering enterprises that need it to keep going. So next time you hear some bloviating politico attack the "do-nothing" Democrats, you can thank Nancy and Chuck.

Of course unemployment insurance is administered by the states, many of which impose burdensome regulations required by skinflint legislators ever-fearful that lazy people will take advantage. (Not that we haven't all known somebody who's tried.) But these are special circumstances, and this is where the aforementioned state governors come in. Times aren't normal: it's their collective duty to clear the hurdles and let the money flow.

Anyway, how this all happened is that Pelosi and Schumer pretty much ran a good-cop/bad-cop number on Mitch McConnell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who did the negotiating for the Republicans. Or as the Speaker later explained, "we did jiu-jitsu on it, that it went from a corporate-first proposal that the Republicans put forth in the Senate to a Democratic workers-first legislation."

McConnell's a vastly overrated legislative strategist to begin with—mainly good at saying no. When he presented a my-way-or-the-highway trillion dollar package in late March, Democrats shocked him by voting no on a procedural issue. Needing 60 votes to pass, the chamber deadlocked at 48-48.

Republicans threw a big hissy fit. "Is that what we've come to?" ever-melodramatic Maine Sen. Susan Collins asked. "We don't have another day. We don't have another hour. We don't have another minute to delay acting."

OK, fine. So do you want to negotiate with Chuck or Nancy? Good cop or bad cop? McConnell went into hiding. Mnuchin basically gave Sen. Schumer most of what he wanted. Possibly because it was good policy. But certainly because nobody wanted to tangle with Speaker Pelosi, who's smarter and tougher than them all.