Pick your movie. "Edge of Tomorrow." "Groundhog Day." "Dr. Strange." All involve time loops.

Congress is also caught in a temporal loop when it comes to the next coronavirus bill.

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Formal talks between Congressional Democratic leaders and the White House ceased a week and a half ago. And with the House gone until at least mid-September unless there’s a breakthrough in the COVID-19 discussions, the Senate settled into a rhythm. The Senate met every day for just an hour or so. A skeleton crew was on hand. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would come to the floor and rail against the Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., surfaced a few times as well. In turn, Schumer railed against McConnell and the Trump administration. A few other senators parachuted in for brief floor speeches. They’d rail against everybody for not completing a bill. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Sen Tim Kaine, D-Va., Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., all took their turns last week on the Senate floor for a few moments.

And then, the Senate would adjourn for the day.

McConnell, Schumer, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., would spar with one another, frequently descending on the Rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building, for cable TV network appearances.

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That would be it.

And then the cycle would repeat.

“Another day has passed and nothing has happened. No incremental progress. No compromise,” lamented Kaine on the floor. “To some, it may just be one day. But to too many Americans, another day fighting for your health or how you’ll pay your rent or how you’ll feed your kids is a brutal and terrifying thing.”

The chasm between the sides now seems wider than ever.

“When reporters ask, ‘Why can’t you resolve our differences?’ I want you to see how vast those differences are,” said Pelosi, referring to a chart showing canyons of contrast between the sides. “These Republicans have never understood the gravity of the situation. They have ignored the science. They called it a hoax. Magically it will go away. It was a hoax. No. They are a hoax.”

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Democrats called for a $3 trillion bill. Republicans pitched $1 trillion. Pelosi later offered $2 trillion. Meet in the middle. But that may involve some fuzzy math. Under that proposal, the Democratic approach would be cheaper because they’d slash the duration of the legislation. A shorter time span means it wouldn’t cost as much.

That was too much for McConnell.

“The Speaker’s latest spin is that it is some heroic sacrifice to lower her demand from a made-up three-and-a-half-trillion-dollar marker that was never going to become law to an equally made-up two-and-a-half trillion-dollar marker. She calls this meeting in the middle,” charged McConnell. “That’s throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. People who have serious policy proposals that are fitted to actual needs cannot breezily knock off a trillion here, and add a trillion there.”

McConnell then argued that “perhaps Democrats should have put up the entire $93 trillion Green New Deal. Then they could have blamed the president for not meeting them halfway at the cut-rate bargain sum of $45 trillion.”

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin called Pelosi on Wednesday. Pelosi and Schumer, followed by Mnuchin, then published dueling press releases. In each missive, both sides essentially announced they disagreed even on the disagreements.

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Pelosi told Mnuchin to pony up $2 trillion for a bill or don’t come back for any new talks.

“Perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gave a damn,” said Pelosi of Republicans at her weekly press conference. “That isn't the case. So, this is very far apart. And unless they see the reality of what it means in the lives of the American people, what good is it for us to agree to something that has no relationship to meeting the needs of the American people?”

I’ve covered Pelosi for years now. It’s rare the speaker uses salty language like that in public. Some years ago, she suggested to the press corps that she may have uttered a profanity or two when it was discovered Congress sent President George W. Bush an incomplete farm bill. The president vetoed the measure and returned it to Capitol Hill. The House only discovered the clerical error moments before members were poised to conduct a rare veto override vote. Thus, the House would vote to override an incomplete bill – because Congress sent the White House an abridged version of the legislation in the first place. One can only imagine that Pelosi wasn’t the only one on Capitol Hill that day issuing profane utterances.

But in present day, Pelosi suggesting that the other side doesn’t give “a damn” in the middle of the most serious public health crisis in a century and the most cataclysmic economic downtown since the Great Depression, only underscores her frustration at the impasse.

She’s not the only one.

No bill — regardless of who is to blame — means possible aid is months away for those in need. That could set the table for a very stark fall. Trump administration officials recently embraced decent economic activity of late in spite of the pandemic. But that’s partly because the Federal Reserve chipped in. Congress spent more than $3 trillion on other coronavirus measures. The Paycheck Protection Program enabled businesses to continue to pay workers. Additional unemployment assistance goosed the economy. So did direct payments to everyday citizens.

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But all of that is on ice for now.

And Thursday afternoon, Mitch McConnell interrupted the time loop. McConnell formally cut the Senate loose until early September – not that a lot of senators were waiting around on Capitol Hill anyway. McConnell told senators he’d recall them in 24 hours to vote if there was ever a breakthrough in the coronavirus talks. “It would take bipartisan consent to meet for legislative business sooner than scheduled,” McConnell said. “The American people need more help. Coronavirus is not finished with our country. So Congress cannot be finished helping our people.”

The House passed a bill in May which wouldn’t go anywhere in the Senate and would struggle to be signed into law.

The Senate can’t pass a bill.

So, the nation is stuck with executive orders.

For now.

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The time loop is broken on Capitol Hill.

But the impasse is not.

Source Link:
https://www.foxnews.com/politics/congress-coronavirus-negotiations-loop

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