Earlier on Sunday, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin sounded optimistic that Republicans and Democrats were getting close to finalizing a $2 trillion stimulus package for the American people and businesses.
“I think we have a fundamental understanding and we look forward to wrapping it up today. It will get done,” he said on “Fox News Sunday, saying the plan was meant to prop up the nation’s weakened economy for the next 10 to 12 weeks.
“I think the president has every expectation that this is going to look a lot better four or eight weeks from now,” Mnuchin said. “If for any reason, 10 weeks from now with this virus we haven’t won this, we’ll go back to Congress again.”
But that optimism disappeared a few hours later after Democrats balked at several sections of the bill that failed to advance their political agenda.
Democrats worry the language is vague enough that corporations could take federal help and still fire workers. Democrats also wanted strong restrictions on corporations who take federal help, but the source said the GOP bill included “very weak” stock buyback restrictions that could be waived by Mnuchin.
The GOP bill, according to the source, also increases a “corporate bail out fund” to $500 billion. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) had pushed to increase the $208 billion proposed in the original GOP plan to ensure distressed industries have access to capital.
A Democratic aide confirmed the change, characterizing the bill as currently drafted as a “non-starter.”
Even more ominous to Democrats was a Medicaid restriction that would hurt Planned Parenthood and other non-profits.
A Democratic aide said that the small business provision was drafted to exclude non-profits who receive Medicaid from being eligible for Small Business Administration assistance offered under the bill. That, according to the aide, would impact Planned Parenthood but also community health centers, rape crisis centers and disability service providers.
Planned Parenthood is not a “small business” and non-profits, as their name implies, aren’t “businesses” either. Tens of millions of dollars — or more — could be denied to real small businesses who need that cash as well.
Both parties are going to have to realize that not everyone is going to be saved. There will be some businesses, including large corporations, who will not survive a lengthy shutdown. The idea that these corporations should have been able to “ride out” the effects of the pandemic if only they hadn’t spent all that cash buying back their stock is ludicrous. Nobody could have put enough cash away to ride out anything that lasts more than a couple of weeks. Do Democrats and liberals believe that United Airlines went to the ATM and withdrew money from some corporate cash account to buy their own stock? Insane.
Yes, there should be some restrictions on any bailout money. But to tie a company’s hands by not giving them full control of their workforce during this crisis because of political considerations is wrong.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still optimistic, but even if the Senate passes the bill, it’s going to be radically altered in the Democratic House. That will mean more delays, more wrangling.
Congress is becoming expert at fiddling while Rome burns.