Mitch McConnell Could Rescue Millions. What Is He Waiting For?


Mr. McConnell put forward a proposal on Monday that included billions of dollars for new F-35 jet fighters, but not a penny in aid for state and local governments. In any event, it quickly became clear that many Senate Republicans were not exactly on board. “There’s no consensus on anything,” said Mr. McConnell’s deputy, Senator John Cornyn of Texas. Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, called the proposal “a mess.”

Lawmaking is laborious and rarely proceeds in a straight line. If the calendar still said June, there would be less reason to worry about these convolutions.

But behaving in late July as if it were still June is a recipe for disaster.

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.

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Britt Coundiff of Indianapolis is living on unemployment benefits after losing her job at an art-house cinema. Without the federal payments, she’ll be left with a weekly state payment of $193. She told Talmon Joseph Smith of The Times, “With two kids and rent and groceries, that is not enough for us to survive.”

On Thursday, Senate Republicans proposed an inadequate stopgap: a narrow extension of supplemental unemployment benefits. Instead of continuing the $600 weekly payments, however, Republicans proposed cutting the sum to $200 a week, through the end of the year. That would replace only a portion of the income of the average unemployed worker, which is reasonable in normal times; it encourages people to find jobs. But in the midst of a pandemic, with few jobs available, the benefit cut is an act of pointless cruelty.

Democrats refused to accept the proposal, and Republicans refused to do anything more.

The result: More than 20 million unemployed Americans are about to lose $600 a week. They need the money. They can’t find jobs. And the Senate is leaving for vacation.





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