Analysis: McConnell Will Strangle U.S. Economy If Democrats Don’t Retake Senate

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Mitch McConnell is preparing to “cripple [Joe Biden] with the horrific politics of a grueling, misery-racked recovery.”

Writing in The Washington Post, Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman argue that despite words of optimism coming from key players in negotiations for another COVID stimulus package, the “unfortunate reality” is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will do everything in his power to keep it from happening.

  • “Mitch McConnell will do all he possibly can to kill any big stimulus bill before the election,” they write, predicting that the Kentucky Republican will likely find success.
  • Then one of two scenarios will unfold, so long as McConnell retains his power:

If President Trump wins reelection on Nov. 3, there will probably be a sizable stimulus passed shortly after, with the Senate majority leader’s support.

If Joe Biden wins and Republicans hold the Senate, McConnell will do all he can to strangle the Biden presidency by preventing any big stimulus from passing, no matter how bad the economic misery from the recession gets.

  • However, if Biden emerges victorious in November and Democrats are able to take the Senate, a sizable stimulus awaits Americans in 2021, they write.
  • Sargent and Waldman note that McConnell “allowed a $500 billion bill to come to a vote Wednesday, knowing that Democrats would all vote against it and it would fail, which it did.”

In so doing, McConnell showed a willingness to do the bare minimum to give vulnerable members a way to say they tried to pass something as we slide deeper into disaster. Now that it didn’t pass, they’ll try to blame this on Democrats, while hoping voters don’t notice that Democrats want something four times as big.

  • McConnell’s motive in all this is not particularly opaque, the authors observe. While he clearly is focused on rushing through the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, there is more:
  • If Biden wins in November, “this allows Republicans to try to put his presidency in a fiscal straitjacket and cripple him with the horrific politics of a grueling, misery-racked recovery.”

In this scenario, we wouldn’t get any stimulus during the lame-duck period. Senate Republicans would have zero incentive to help Biden in a lame-duck session. Their goal will be to undermine him in every way possible, and that will be just the first step.

What happens next in that scenario will turn on a host of factors. If Republicans hold the Senate, they’d try to smother the Biden presidency by suddenly rediscovering their horror at deficits. If Democrats win it, Republicans would try this from the minority, and Democrats might use that to justify nuking the filibuster.

  • McConnell knows that another round of stimulus measures will do nothing to help Trump’s chances, and it’s also “too late for it to have a discernible effect in people’s lives before Nov. 3, so it would be unlikely to impact his vulnerable members’ fortunes much.”

This extraordinary cynicism penetrates Senate Republicans’ justification for opposing a big stimulus right now. The New York Times reports:

Republicans also fear that a vote on such a measure would force vulnerable senators who are up for re-election into a difficult choice of openly defying the president or alienating their base by embracing the big-spending bill he has demanded.

  • However, a "new poll from the New York Times and Siena College finds that 56 percent of Republicans support a $2 trillion stimulus plan like the one Democrats want, including aid to states," they write, asking: "With Trump calling for the same, do you really think this would 'alienate the base'?"

Doubtful. Yet it’s widely treated as fact that Republicans don’t dare support a big stimulus because it would alienate their voters. What this really means is that GOP lawmakers think they can get away with using this as an excuse, and their voters won’t notice — even if Trump wants it.

Read the full analysis.


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