Why pass a COVID-19 recovery bill in the House that has no chance of passing the Senate?
That question was not infrequently asked this week on Capitol Hill as the House Democrats approved a $3 trillion recovery bill that has absolutely no chance making it any further along in the legislative process.
This is partially because the lack of any bipartisan input led to a bill that read more like a Democratic wish list than something designed to keep Americans safe while getting them back to work.
How much so?
Consider the fact that there are more references to cannabis in the bill (68 of them, according to the New York Post) than there are to jobs (52). It includes generous bailouts to state governments whose problems are of their own making. It’ll restore a federal deduction for property taxes aimed mostly at blue states.
There was no language restricting spending on abortion.
It’s the most expensive spending bill ever passed in the history of the House of Representatives. It features a whole lot of pork, yet only a $1,200 check to American taxpayers by way of direct, immediate monetary relief — although this being a Democratic bill, that money would also go to certain illegal immigrants, too.
It’s yet more debt added onto the pile in the year when we’ve already added an obscene amount of it to the federal budget.
It is, in a word, unacceptable.
But don’t think that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t know what she’s doing.
In an opinion piece for Fox News published Saturday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said that you shouldn’t “underestimate” Pelosi, who may be signaling to the base in advance of the November elections.
Mind you, Gingrich had some of the same thoughts about the outrageous nature of the bill. In his Op-Ed, which pointed out in the headline that “Pelosi’s crazy $3T coronavirus spending bill may have [a] secret purpose,” he even brought up this tweet he wrote in the wake of the legislation’s proposal:
How do you explain a House Democratic Party so crazy that their new $3 trillion proposal has 68 references to Cannabis and only 52 references to jobs? Maybe Speaker Pelosi of San Francisco believes “California Dreamin” could become the new national anthem.
— newtgingrich (@newtgingrich) May 14, 2020
“The bill is the most expensive spending bill ever passed in the history of the House of Representatives, but Pelosi took no public comment, no Republican input, and didn’t consult with the Republican-controlled Senate or the White House on the bill,” he wrote in the Saturday opinion piece.
“As we learned about the nuttier parts of the bill after it was introduced, it struck me almost as a joke.”
However, Gingrich had a three-word warning for those engaging in that kind of thinking: “Don’t underestimate her.”
“Pelosi is a survivor. She is tough. She is hardworking, and she has been through a lot of campaigns — and seen and executed a lot of maneuvers,” Gingrich wrote.
“Therefore, you must assume there is a sound strategic reason for Pelosi to bring forward a bill that is this radical, expensive, and controversial.”
Gingrich cited several reasons why he believes Pelosi’s bill might actually help her party in the long run.
“First, Pelosi probably believes this is going to be a base turnout election, and she knows from all the polls that Republicans are more excited about the election than Democrats,” Gingrich wrote.
In swing state Wisconsin, the GOP easily kept a district, with Tom Tiffany winning a 57 percent to 43 percent victory over Tricia Zunker. California should be more worrying for Pelosi, however; for the first time in 22 years in the state, a Republican managed to flip a seat back from Democratic control.
“The GOP win was clearly a function of a much more energized Republican base,” Gingrich wrote.
“From Pelosi’s perspective, mobilizing the cannabis users and liberal investors is a useful move, too. They are as much part of the Democratic base as traditional small business owners are part of the Republican base.
“Arousing the hardcore, pro-abortion activists helps Pelosi with turnout and donations. Disciplined repetition of the word ‘diversity’ appeals to her ideological activists and – to a lesser extent — minority communities.
“Appealing to the illegal immigrant community is a useful thing for Pelosi. And Democrats are working to make it possible for illegal immigrants to vote in a number of states.”
Then there’s the property tax deduction which helps out the wealthiest in the bluest of blue states. The money to states that have been mismanaged is clearly a sop to public sector unions, who would likely have to see changes to their benefits otherwise given the massive pensions debt those states have racked up.
Adding to this is the fact that Gingrich thinks no one on the right is going to remember any of this.
“Pelosi has likely calculated that — as usual — the Republican candidates will forget to focus. She also must be betting that in a few weeks the Republican and independent voters will have forgotten this monstrosity of a leftwing wish list,” he wrote.
If Republicans hold strong, Gingrich thinks, the feint will fail.
“It is a major gamble on Pelosi’s part. If the Republicans have enough discipline and endurance, she will pay a substantial price for it,” he said in closing.
The question is whether they do. It’s often difficult for either party to seize outrages and hold on tight to the narrative, especially when distressing news whirls by with an unsettling quickness.
Nevertheless, Gingrich is right: If Republicans remember what Pelosi did by shepherding this bill through the lower chamber of Congress, they can hold it over congressional Democrats’ heads in the autumn. They’re the one who passed this silly affront, after all.
This did nothing but waste Congress’ time at a point where time is of the essence. If that doesn’t say everything about her leadership, I don’t know what will.
There’s a very good chance Republicans don’t remember it, however — and therein lies the problem.
If the GOP fails to hammer home areas where the Democrats are profoundly out of touch, that forgetfulness could allow the Democrats to reposition themselves within the mainstream of American thought, just as they did back in 2018.
Let voters know what the Democrats’ priorities are. They’ll take it from there.
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