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Bill Straub: Who to believe? New stimulus package (choose one: does, does not) look promising

It was Sen. George Aiken, a Republican from Vermont, who suggested in the fall of 1966 that the United States relieve itself from a growing quagmire in Vietnam by simply declaring victory and calling the troops home.
“It may be a far-fetched proposal,” Aiken said in a now-famous floor speech, “but nothing else has worked.”

Fast-forward 54 years and you’ll find Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch” McConnell, of Louisville, taking Aiken’s advice to heart in dealing with yet another quagmire – this time the fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic that has left almost 200,000 of his fellow Americans dead and an economy in agony.

McConnell has made it clear that in his view the federal government’s response to the crisis will hereinafter not only be muted but non-existent. An estimated 12 million workers have permanently lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus and state and local governments are cratering without the funds necessary to provide vital services. But it doesn’t seem to matter to the man reputed to be a legislative magician.

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com

In other words, Mitch is ready to declare victory over COVID-19 despite all evidence to the contrary and moving on.

“We have been in a challenging period,” McConnell said last week during a campaign trip to Mt. Sterling. “Regretfully, I can’t tell you today we’re going to get there. I wish I could tell you we were going to get another package, but it doesn’t look that good right now.”

If the federal government fails to provide another relief package to address a still-deteriorating situation, McConnell ultimately will be the man responsible. After questioning whether further action was even necessary after the adoption of a second stimulus in March, ol’ Root-‘n-Branch attempted to low-ball on the third measure, dismissing the $3 trillion proposal passed by the House in May and offering up a woefully insufficient $650 billion package with only $350 billion in new money whose sole purpose, it appears, was simply to permit those Senate Republicans seeking re-election to tell their constituents they at least voted for something.

That effort to pass McConnell’s so-called “skinny” relief bill failed, with none of the Democrats in the upper chamber going along with the joke. The proposal reduced the enhanced unemployment insurance benefit contained in previous measures from $600 to $300, which would have left plenty of kids hungry. It also failed to include a second $1,200 direct payment to individuals and ignored the needs of cash-strapped state and local governments, funding for rental and mortgage assistance and food aid.

In other words, pretty worthless.

But all of a sudden, despite Mitch’s cold-water tone, some relief might be emerging from the rightfield bullpen. Someone apparently woke up President Donald J. Trump, aka President Extremely Stable Genius, aka President Great and Unmatched Wisdom, and told him that turning his back on individuals who lost jobs through no fault of their own and failing to bolster municipal governments so they can provide necessary services isn’t exactly the sort of look that enhances one’s re-election prospects, with a vote less than two months away.
So now we suddenly see Trump once again double-crossing his pal Mitch by asserting that maybe, just maybe, we can throw a few more bucks into the pile.

“Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans, it all comes back to the USA anyway (one way or another!),” Trump said in one of his infamous tweets, having set aside his putter for a few moments to concentrate on the issue at hand.

As if to emphasize the Trumpster’s change of heart, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who played hardball with congressional Democrats in negotiations over a relief package, made it known that he is suddenly “optimistic” over prospects for a new deal.

“If the Speaker (Nancy Pelosi, of California) is willing to stay in, I’m willing to stay in,” Meadows told CNBC.

It appears that a proposal offered by a middle-of-the-road group known as the House Problem Solvers Caucus, consisting of Democrats and Republicans, may serve as the basis for new negotiations. Its $1.52 trillion relief plan provides a broad range of assistance, including aid to state and local governments, individual payments and enhanced unemployment benefits. It doesn’t go as far as the Democrats’ $3 trillion package but provides a starting point.

It also once again leaves our boy Mitch with egg on his face as the president of these United States catches him looking with a curveball – ironic since these two jamokes are supposed to be playing on the same team.

McConnell, who has displayed a willingness to play the fool for Trump over and over again, was obviously kept in the dark about the president’s renewed desire to get something done on the relief package. Now Mitch might have to dig up the corpse he buried to make his true boss happy and keep his seemingly fading re-election prospects alive.

The whole situation almost makes you feel sorry for Mitch McConnell, who has been embarrassed by Trump so many times that it’s surprising his skin hasn’t turned a permanent red. McConnell has consistently refused to criticize Trump over even the most ludicrous sins of his misbegotten administration. Whether it be racist dog whistles or crude meanderings coming from the White House, ol’ Root-‘n-Branch has kept his tongue.

McConnell will eventually pay a price for his acquiescence in the history books. In the meantime he’ll simply face the humiliation of serving as Trump’s lapdog, cringing every time his boss does something that makes him look foolish. Something that happens all the time.

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  1. Willie says:

    Great Bill. Now do the same for Nancy Pelosi.

  2. Richard says:

    650 billion is woefully insufficient? The 3T Democrat plan included another round of $1200 stimulus checks. Just like the last time, it will include people who have not lost their jobs and frankly do not need it. Its also more than was allocated in the last stimulus package. Thats called goverment waste. It reeks of politics and should not be supported.

    In case you have not noticed, the U.S. is currently in debt to the tune of 23T.

  3. J Smith says:

    Bill “Ad Hominem” Straub deems the aid bill killed by Democrats “pretty worthless”? Tell that to the family who just missed another rent payment and is facing eviction Mr. “Ad Hominem”!

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