No Choice

Unsanitized: Deadline Day for Pre-Election Stimulus Comes, And Will Go

Unsanitized: Deadline Day for Pre-Election Stimulus Comes, And Will Go

(Photo by: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

This article is adapted from Unsanitized: The COVID-19 Daily Report put out by The American Prospect. You can find the original publication here.

Universal Family Care

Here are today’s great stories from our special issue on the need for universal family care:

• Sara Luterman on disability care, an overlooked part of the family care system.

• Sarah Jaffe on the crisis of U.S. workers without paid sick leave.

• Alex Sammon on the collapse of long-term care insurance, a system that is no longer sustainable to protect people from elder care expenses.

• Moe Tkacik with an amazing long-read on the corporatization of nursing homes, captured by a predatory outfit decades ago that set the stage for many of private equity’s worst tricks.

• Rhacel Salazar Parrenas on the aging of migrant domestic workers, and the situation of the elderly caring for the elderly.

• Brittany Gibson explains what caregiving looks like in the UK.

You can see all of the stories throughout the week at

Deadline to Nowhere

Today is a “deadline” day for whether or not there will be an agreement on COVID relief before the election, and I’ll save you the trouble by pointing out there won’t be any. It’s inexcusable in an alleged democracy where voters support relief by 51 points that it’s not going to happen, leading us into what’s likely to be the worst months of the pandemic with no federal support. But at the risk of being redundant, the cake was baked on this in March, when the first and only real pre-election bite of the stimulus apple would be taken.

Based on who I’ve been talking to, the easiest part of this deal—getting the White House (through its negotiator Steven Mnuchin) and House Democrats together on a deal—is incredibly remote. “We want specificity, we want language that is binding,” Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, told me yesterday. “There might be agreement on a number, but still no agreement on values. Giving the budgetary discretion to this administration at this time, that would be a mistake without being more prescriptive on how that money is used.”

The rough translation there is that Democrats don’t trust the Trump administration with appropriated money. These are the guys that took military funds and used them to build a border wall. One response to that is to look at the CARES Act, where money flowed out smoothly, but not all the rules were followed there. A report out just this week found that Treasury encouraged banks to lend to existing customers on the Paycheck Protection Program, and airlines that got bailout money laid off workers before the fact. So part of this reflects the crumbling trust over a four-year period.

Related to that is the fact that even “agreements” from the principals are not leading to actual agreements on legislative language. This Jake Sherman thread shows how even simple things like money for transit and community health centers has been deadlocked, with Republicans resistant to sign onto things agreed to by Mnuchin.

Then there’s the liability release for businesses whose workers or customers contract COVID, a red line for both Republicans and Democrats. People I’ve spoken with on the left say there’s no way any bill with that in there gets passed, and Republicans say no bill without it does.

These are just the divisions to get to a White House/House Democratic agreement, before you get to the Senate. Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of the Senate leadership, said that he doubted there were even 13 votes (the minimum to break a filibuster) in his caucus for anything above a token amount. And that assumes Mitch McConnell would put a bill supported by all Senate Democrats and almost none of his caucus on the floor. There are a lot of stupid semantic games around McConnell saying he would “consider” a White House agreement; everyone knows that doesn’t mean anything and certainly doesn’t mean a guaranteed vote. Even the most deal-friendly Democrats, like Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), understands that McConnell is and always was the roadblock.

What McConnell’s actually done is set up votes on the exact same piece of legislation that failed a month ago, the $500 billion “skinny” relief bill, which includes an amendment that just restarts a PPP that had effectively no demand when it expired. Today, actually just the PPP restart will be voted on, as an amendment, and it won’t even be a vote to pass it, but a vote to table the amendment. (Long story, read this.)

This is purely designed to put Democrats in an alleged bind of voting against stimulus, except they have voted against this several times and it’s caused no discernible reaction, with vulnerable Republican Senators still vulnerable. McConnell is not quite a “master” strategist when it comes to anything other than bulling through judges.

Speaking of which, yesterday Chuck Schumer offered a sample of what Democrats could do to crank the Senate floor to a halt to slow down an Amy Coney Barrett confirmation, though not as much as they could have. Schumer forced a vote on a motion to adjourn (with a caveat that the chamber would come back in the event of a stimulus package) and a Congressional Review Act vote on a Trump administration banking regulation. This is within the power of the minority, and it did force votes, though they failed. Republicans had four absentees yesterday, meaning that a quorum call would have put the chamber into purgatory, at least until McConnell could rustle up 51 Senators. But Schumer didn’t opt for that.

While McConnell is trying to set up his votes to block any amendments to his useless skinny relief bill, Schumer did start a process to put the House-passed Heroes Act onto the legislative calendar. McConnell is using a very complicated procedure to try to block any attempt from Democrats to call this vote up. There will also be a roll call to go back to executive session to keep the Barrett nomination on track, making any of these votes on stimulus kind of moot. If McConnell doesn’t have all his members today, it would be a good day to test out the quorum call option.

The inevitability of lack of relief does not make it any less tragic. Whatever savings low-income people managed to build up with CARES Act relief will be gone well before any other help arrives, and another pandemic surge deeply complicates matters. Even if the country doesn’t go back into lockdown, habits will change enough to dampen spending on any group-based activity. Many of the few still-extant relief supports expire at the end of the year. I’ve already said enough about how this was guaranteed by political decisions made long ago. But I’ll just say that it’s disgusting to now have a man-made depression on top of the pandemic-made one.

Days Without a Bailout Oversight Chair


Today I Learned

David Dayen

David Dayen is the author of Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street’s Great Foreclosure Fraud, winner of the Studs and Ida Terkel Prize. Follow him on Twitter: @ddayen.