What? And leave the safety of her twin $12,000 freezers? Donald Trump has signaled over the last twenty-four hours that if Nancy Pelosi wants to play hardball over an issue of replenishing the Paycheck Protection Program from afar, he’s willing to play hardball, too. For the second day in a row, Trump demanded that Pelosi and Chuck Schumer bring Congress back into session and start dealing with the COVID-19 crisis in person.
The “ENDLESS VACATION” is a nice touch, but I still prefer the Brave Sir Robin Congress:
Today people started losing their jobs because of Crazy Nancy Pelosi, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, and the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, who should immediately come back to Washington and approve legislation to help families in America. End your ENDLESS VACATION!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020
The criticism of Pelosi is spot on, but slightly less so on Schumer. It would take Mitch McConnell to order the Senate back into full session, not Schumer, and thus far McConnell hasn’t done so. In large part that’s because Pelosi hasn’t acted either, but it’s still a fair criticism of both Pelosi and McConnell. In a national emergency — two of them, actually, public health and economic — Congress should be in session to act as quickly as possible to deal with the responses. That includes the Senate even if the House refuses to return. In fact, it’s a little puzzling that McConnell hasn’t recalled the Senate to demonstrate Pelosi’s fecklessness.
Pelosi’s weird demonstration of her ice-cream-hoarding prowess isn’t her only optics problem, either. When asked to explain why more money can’t get to the PPP right now, Pelosi offered a confused explanation comparing it to aid for hospitals — which hasn’t yet run out:
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) April 16, 2020
The solution to that should be a fresh look at the situation in Phase 4, but in the meantime, small businesses need access to the PPP right now to keep people on the payroll until they can begin operating again. Rather than focus on that acute need in a program Congress has already created, Democrats want to start larding it up with identity-politics pork while they believe they have some leverage to use:
In a joint statement Monday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for “further changes” to the Paycheck Protection Program, plus “significantly increased” funding for disaster grants and loans, plus “additional support” for the food-stamp program, plus “adequate funding” for nationwide virus testing and personal protective equipment, plus “the collection and publication of demographic data” so that “we can accurately determine the level of impact on under-served communities and communities of color.”
Identity politics and the social pork barrel trump jobs and business solvency.
Democrats can make all this part of their election campaign, but the Paycheck Protection Program is out of funds today. Every minute that passes, another small business may go bust or lay off staff.
Mrs. Pelosi has been saying far and wide that President Trump is responsible for the Covid-19 death toll because he didn’t act quickly enough to stop it. The longer Democrats refuse to provide financing for small businesses after government cut off their revenue, the more Americans will have every right to conclude that Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer are responsible for the worsening economic destruction.
But do they have the leverage? Late yesterday Pelosi got criticized by former Obama administration SBA chief Karen Mills for her delaying tactics on PPP. Senate Democrat Kyrsten Sinema publicly called for a clean replenishment of PPP too, and this morning Michigan Democrat Rep. Haley Stevens echoed the call:
We need to do whatever we can to plus-up the PPP program, to help Main Street businesses and to help those who have been handed an economic hardship through no fault of their own. Arguably this program should have had more money to begin with.https://t.co/Z4BpfSbp0M
— Haley Stevens (@HaleyLive) April 17, 2020
The more that small-business owners demand action from their elected representatives — especially Democrats — the more that Pelosi’s perceived leverage dissipates. The more that Trump makes an issue of their lack of commitment to their jobs, the more rapidly the ground will dissolve under Pelosi’s feet, too. It’s tough to explain away the intransigence over replenishing PPP as is, as seen above, but it’s impossible to explain why Congress is on its “ENDLESS VACATION” while grocery workers, truck drivers, nurses, restaurant workers, and all sorts of Americans in “essential businesses” are showing up and doing their jobs. Pelosi’s attempt to use unanimous consent as a club in negotiations deserves to backfire spectacularly on her whole caucus — and hopefully will.