FILE – In this Dec. 11, 2018, file photo, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. The White House on Sunday, Dec. 16, pushed the federal government closer to the brink of a partial shutdown later this week, digging in on its demand for $5 billion to build a border wall as congressional Democrats stood firm against it. Democratic congressional leaders, Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, have proposed no more than $1.6 billion, as outlined in a bipartisan Senate bill. The money would not go for the wall but for fencing upgrades and other border security. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
Fox News reports that, in the wee hours, Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin signaled the two parties were close to an agreement on the sorely needed Coronavirus relief bill.
Schumer told reporters, “We expect to have an agreement tomorrow morning. There’s still a few little differences. Neither of us think they’re in any way going to get in the way of a final agreement.” Schumer added that he “expects a vote sometime on Tuesday.”
Mnuchin said, “I think we’ve made a lot of progress. Both sides have been working around the clock.” He believes the remaining differences will be resolved on Tuesday.
According to Fox, one of the sticking points in the negotiations is the $500 billion “Exchange Stabilization Fund,” which the Democrats refer to as “a slush fund.” They are concerned that Mnuchin would have too much discretion “over which industries would have access to the fund.”
On Monday evening, Mnuchin appeared on Fox Business and said, “It’s not a slush fund; it’s a mechanism that we can use working with the Federal Reserve that will provide another $4 trillion of potential liquidity into the market. That’s on top of the Fed’s balance sheet.”
Late Monday night, Politico reporter John Bresnahan tweeted, “Mnuchin has agreed to “significant oversight” over $500B “Exchange Stabilization Fund,” per 3 sources. This is a major issue for Democrats, who called it a “$500 billion slush fund” with no accountability.”
NEWS – Mnuchin has agreed to “significant oversight” over $500B “Exchange Stabilization Fund,” per 3 sources. This is a major issue for Democrats, who called it a “$500 billion slush fund” with no accountability.
— John Bresnahan (@BresPolitico) March 24, 2020
That may be the Democrats’ ostensible reason for blocking the bill – twice – and what they plan to tell voters this fall, but the real obstacle was their insistence on including unrelated “ideological demands.” These include the following:
1) Unprecedented collective bargaining powers for unions
2) Increased fuel emissions standards for airlines
3) Expansion of wind and solar tax credits
The debate in the Senate between the two parties turned openly hostile on Monday. Fox News’ Chad Pergram reported, “There is verbal open brawling on the U.S. Senate Floor right now…It’s been about 25 years since I’ve seen it devolve this badly, where you actually have senators from both sides yelling at one another.”
On Monday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Senators:
I’d like to see Senate Democrats tell New York City doctors and nurses who are literally overrun as we speak that they are filibustering hospital funding and more masks because they want to argue with the airlines over their carbon footprint.
We were this close, this close. Then yesterday morning the Speaker of the House flew back from San Francisco and suddenly the Senate’s serious bipartisan process turned into this left-wing episode of supermarket sweep! Unrelated issues left and right. I’ll tell you what will lower our carbon footprint is if the entire economy continues to crumble.
The bill requires 60 votes to pass. Currently, five Republican Senators are in quarantine, which increases the Democrats’ leverage.