Despite the pandemic-induced recession, millions of jobless Americans have been kept afloat by an uncharacteristically generous act of Congress. In addition to their state’s usual unemployment payments — usually a fraction of their previous wages — Americans have been eligible to receive an additional $600 a week, desperately needed support for people who saw their incomes crater.
But Republicans have been outraged that the payments were so generous, so they objected to legislation the Democrats passed in May to extend the program. They proposed a number of different ideas to extend the program on a more limited basis, but all these ideas came at the last minute and the GOP caucus couldn’t agree on a single plan. So on Friday, the program officially expires — meaning unemployed Americans who had been receiving a boost of $2,400 a month from the government will suddenly see those payments slashed to zero.
And now, the Senate has gone home for a long weekend.
The Senate left town knowing that failed negotiations would ensure the expiration of enhanced jobless benefits for millions of Americans laid off and furloughed amid the coronavirus pandemic. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer met late into the night Thursday with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, hoping to break the impasse. But they got nowhere and emerged with acrimony and finger-pointing.
Per our colleagues at Playbook: “Meadows made an offer to extend enhanced unemployment at $600 per week for four months as a stand-alone bill. This is a new offer from the White House, and further than Republicans have gone thus far. It’s an extension of current law — something the GOP has railed against. Pelosi and Schumer rejected the offer, and countered with extending enhanced unemployment insurance at the same rate — $600 per week — through the first quarter of 2021.”
All of this was foreseeable, of course. When the CARES Act, which included the bonus unemployment payments, was first passed, it was set to expire at the end of July. Yet Congress — mostly through the GOP’s inaction, and because of the White House’s notable lack of leadership — let the country go off a cliff.
In fact, it had probably already gone off the cliff last week. As the Washington Post’s Jeff Stein has reported, for technical administrative reasons, Congress would have had to pass an extension of the program much earlier in order to avoid a gap in the payments:
Even if benefits extended in full today, we’re still looking at a 2 week lapse in unemployment benefits –> https://t.co/wegSWTCJmf
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) July 31, 2020
For people curious about when exactly the $600/week UI benefit ends, this is a useful explanation
Important point: If youve applied but your case is still pending, you can still be certified for benefits for the weeks you were eligible & receive the $600/week – even after Aug 1 pic.twitter.com/pHMXPvnCUn
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) July 31, 2020
Oh, and at the same time as the benefits are running out, Congress’s eviction moratorium on federal housing has expired, meaning people struggling to make ends meet could be vulnerable to being kicked out of their homes.
And it’s not just the individual families who suddenly see the checks dry up that will feel the pain. Inflicting this level of suffering on unemployed people will be devastating for the economy as a whole, as the New York Times Editorial Board explained:
Even with the infusion of trillions of dollars in federal aid since March, many Americans are struggling to ride out the crisis. Almost 40 million people do not expect to be able to make their next rent or mortgage payment. Almost 30 million Americans said they did not have enough to eat during the week ending July 21. Last week, for the 19th straight week, more than a million people filed fresh claims for unemployment benefits.
Grim as those numbers may be, the United States is on the verge of an even deeper crisis.
Ernie Tedeschi, an economist at Evercore ISI, a financial research firm, estimates that failing to resume the federal unemployment payments would cause a drop in consumer spending large enough to eliminate about 1.7 million jobs — roughly the magnitude of job losses during the recessions of the early 1990s and the early 2000s.
Other crucial issues, such as providing support to state and local governments that have seen their revenues plummet, also remain unresolved because the GOP refuses to address them.
The greatest mystery of all this is the Republicans’ motivations. From all appearances, this is electoral suicide. Control of the White House and the Senate are on the ballot in November, and the GOP’s prospects look grim regardless of the actions Congress takes. How much worse could it get if they force millions into financial distress and allow the economy to slide furth into a historic slump?
It’s shortsighted and needlessly cruel. But we’ve come to expect nothing else from the conservative elites.
Win the vote but still lose? Behold the US Electoral College
"Beautiful" is how US political outsider Donald Trump described his shock presidential win against rival Hillary Clinton on the night of November 8, 2016.
The details were less clean-cut.
Former secretary of state Clinton had received nearly three million more votes than her Republican rival. But, by narrowly winning key battleground states, Trump surpassed the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win the White House.
With just five weeks until the 2020 election featuring Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, the rules of this enigmatic -- some argue outmoded -- system are coming back into focus.
Mudslinging, half-truths and a clash of cultures: Here are 7 things to look for in tonight’s Trump-Biden debate
Well, we can be sure tonight’s debate will be sarcastic, insulting and lively – and a fact-checker’s heaven, starting with why Donald Trump hasn't paid any income taxes recently.
Donald Trump is reported to have spent his prep time coming up with one-line zingers particularly aimed at his opponent’s family and mental acuity, even as Joe Biden seeks to lay blame for coronavirus and economic problems on Trump. Still, the whole event sets up as a clash of cultures more than any debate about who stands where on issues, a showdown of sorts about what sort of country we want.
Donald Trump says Fox News’ Chris Wallace ‘will be controlled by the radical left’ moderating first debate with Joe Biden
Chris Wallace, the Fox News anchor who will moderate the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, is a veteran newsman who has a reputation for playing it straight at a network where the opinion hosts skew to the right.
Wallace, a youthful-looking 72 years old, is the son of legendary "60 Minutes" reporter Mike Wallace, who was known for his pugnacious interviews on the CBS show.
The younger Wallace may not be quite as combative as his late father, but he does not shy away from confrontation.
That includes taking on Trump at a Rupert Murdoch-owned news network that critics have accused of being a cheerleader for the Republican president.