March 22, 2020

This will be short tonight as I’m still prepping for tomorrow’s on-line courses.

The biggest news today is that the Senate has been unable to move forward with its massive economic stimulus package because the Democrats refuse to accept a $1.6 trillion bill they say is largely a handout to corporations with little protection for ordinary Americans hurt in the economic crisis created by the novel coronavirus. Democrats hold more power than usual because five Republican senators are in isolation because of exposure to the coronavirus—Rand Paul (KY), Mike Lee (UT), Mitt Romney (UT), Cory Gardner (UT), and Rick Scott (FL)—which means that the GOP majority is now only 48-47. The stimulus bill needs 60 votes to pass the Senate, so it needs bipartisan support.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell developed the bill without Democratic input, arguing that such a move would be faster than trying to negotiate with Democrats in the writing phase, but what has emerged is a bill that Democrats won’t choke down. Among other things, it gives Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin extraordinary power to use up to $500 billion with little oversight to shore up teetering businesses. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has been vocal in her disapproval of an expensive bill that does not protect ordinary Americans.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has suggested the House will write its own bill. This measure will include an expansion of unemployment insurance, funding for hospitals and medical supplies, grants for small businesses that are in danger of going under in this crisis, and cash payments to poorer Americans.

It sure looks to me like the national mood is changing from a determination to protect those at the top of the economy to protecting ordinary Americans. We'll see what Monday brings.

I'm teaching one class on the 1950s tomorrow and another on the rise of the cattle industry and the cowboys. It's gonna be a good day.