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McConnell And Trump Continue To Block Direct Pandemic Payments To American Families

Pelosi has vowed to keep the House in session-- through the Christmas holidays if need be-- until a pandemic relief bill passes. And that doesn't look any closer to happening, even though government funding-- already entirely inadequate-- ends in 8 days. Even the shitty $908 billion faux-compromise worked out between Senate conservatives Joe Manchin, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney was nixed by McConnell.

Burgess Everett reported that "efforts to cut a deal on a liability shield have proved elusive as Democrats resist GOP offers, while many Republicans are rejecting the idea of sending money to the states that Democrats deem a must-have. And the GOP leadership's dour opinion of the talks amounts to another blow for the bipartisan group. McConnell has publicly suggested dropping local aid and the liability shield from negotiations to focus on health care and other less controversial issues, but Democrats want the group of centrists to continue negotiating to see if they can produce a result. Congress is about to fund the government through Dec. 18, buying them another week of time to talk about the coronavirus aid package."

I turned to former Florida congressman Alan Grayson for an explanation of how Republicans can stand behind something so obviously against the interests of their own constituents. "The reason why the GOP can even attempt to get away with something like this," he told me this afternoon, "is that the party has spewed out propaganda for decades that government assistance is always a bad thing, even when it’s for you, and you need it. Then Democrats stand back in awe as people supposedly 'vote against their own self-interest.' It wouldn’t hurt for us to try to develop our own consistent 'message'-- justice, equality, compassion, peace-- get the voters with us on it, and then make the Republicans pay a price for their selfish callousness."

Seattle congresswoman, Pramila Jayapal, who was just elected chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, put the battle into simple perspective: "Last week's dismal job numbers, today's devastating new unemployment numbers, and our record number of new COVID-19 cases only highlight the urgent need for relief that matches the scale of this crisis. Any relief package should put money in people's pockets by sending out survival checks, renewing expanded unemployment assistance, providing rental and mortgage relief, and delivering urgent aid to businesses in the forms of grants."

Meantime, this morning, Missouri Republican Josh Hawley introduced a stand alone bill that would provide $1,200 checks to all Americans ($2,400 for couples + $500 per child) who make under $75,000 a year-- the Emergency Direct Payments for Families and Workers Act. Basically, it's exactly the same as what was passed in March as part of the CARES Act.

Sounding far more like Bernie and AOC than McConnell, Hawley's release said "Americans need direct payments now. Families are struggling. Unemployment claims are rising and food lines are growing. It’s time Congress finally acts. Direct payments should be at the center of any COVID relief legislation that Congress passes. If Congress doesn’t pass relief legislation with direct payments in it by next week, I will go to the Senate floor to demand a vote on my legislation."

Trump has offered $600 as a grudging one-time payment and Mnuchin has told Pelosi that $1,200 will not fly. Democrats should make this the top issue in next month's Georgia Senate runoff, since neither Perdue nor Loeffler back $1,200 checks, while both Warnock and Ossoff do.

Hawley appealed directly to Trump and told him that he continues "to be flummoxed as to why there aren't any direct payments. Everybody supported this in March. It's the most useful, helpful and frankly popular aspect." He told Trump to veto any bill that doesn't include the $1,200 payment, apparently not understanding that Trump is, at least in part, behind the sudden penny-pinching.

Liam O'Mara, who did incredibly well against Republican slug Crooked Ken Calvert this year, is running again in 2022. "On this issue," he told me late yesterday, "Senator Hawley is correct -- cash payments to Americans should be at the heart of any COVID-related legislation. That we have so far resisted a path followed by other advanced economies-- wage subsidies and direct stimulus spending-- is why our economy has suffered more than most, and why our death rate is so much higher. Go figure-- telling people they need to go to work, but then have to avoid all other social contact, is not effective in containing a deadly pandemic! Of course, we knew this, and if we had just paid everyone to stay home for a few months, this would be over already. As it stands, millions have lost their jobs. Others have seen their income plummet. Eviction orders and threats are mounting. And small businesses all over the country have closed their doors for good. All of this was preventable. Alas, people like McConnell and our Rep., Crooked Ken Calvert, would rather funnel cash to wealthy corporations who do not need it, and tell the American worker 'Sorry, sport, we can't afford to help you!' Frankly, this is bullshit. They can afford corporate welfare and endless wars, it seems, so they can sure as hell afford to help the American people. And now... instead of actually standing up for small businesses, consumers, and workers in Riverside County, Ken Calvert has decided a better use of his time is to join a political stunt aimed at appeasing a demagogue-- this insane Texas lawsuit that's trying to get 17+ million votes invalidated. We don't have representatives any more-- we have a ruling class, and one concerned only with partisan loyalties, rewards to wealthy friends, and self-preservation. It's time we replaced these clowns and got a Congress willing to fight for the interests of the people again."

Ted Lieu tweeted an enticement to Trump today: "These checks will have your name on them. If you have any clout left with McConnell, use it now."

Eva Putzova, Chair, Flagstaff Living Wage Coalition and a former member of Flagstaff's city council, founded a new organization, Catch Fire. "Putting money directly in the pockets of regular people," she told me today, "is the only way we can moderate the disastrous economic impacts of the pandemic. Rather than haggling over crumbs for people, our political elites should be negotiating the terms around a UBI. The pandemic has exacerbated inequalities that grew during Obama's and especially, Trump's administrations. It will be up to the next generation of leaders to correct these systemic injustices. That's why we launched Catch Fire this week-- an organization that will support courageous, authentic progressives early and concretely. To legislate people-centered policies, we fiercely believe that we need progressive working people to lead and for them to succeed, we need institutions that will do what the corporate kingmakers are doing within each major party system."

Bernie explained the urgency-- beyond the obvious-- to his followers in a note this afternoon, writing that "This bill will set the agenda for the first two years of the Biden administration. Are we going to have austerity economics, or are we going to have a progressive agenda that meets the needs of the working people of this country? When Trump was president, spending money was not an issue. But now my Republican colleagues are so deeply worried about the national debt once again. If we are concerned about the debt, we need progressive taxation, we need to end corporate welfare, we need to end the bloated military budget, but we do not need, in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, to punish working families who are hurting so badly today. And if we allow Republicans to set the agenda, to set the parameters of the debate, the next two to four years will be a disaster. If you want a Green New Deal or even support for Biden’s climate proposal, where is the money going to come from? If you want to expand health care or rebuild our infrastructure, where is the money going to come from? So the question is, are we going to return to Mitch McConnell’s austerity politics, or are we going to build a dynamic economy that works for everyone and not just the 1 percent?"

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