Why is there still no deal on a full stimulus package or even the value of unemployment benefits?
Congressional Republicans can't even agree among themselves on a stimulus proposal and some are ideologically opposed to doing anything at all, of course, but congressional Republicans and Democrats aren't talking to each other anyway. The Trump White House is directly negotiating with Democrats.
In the past, directly negotiating with congressional Democratic leaders resulted in Trump agreeing to almost everything Democrats wanted even when Republicans still controlled both chambers of Congress, but one thing is different this time: Trump's chief of staff.
Democrats negotiated with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in the past, but now they're negotiating with Mnuchin and Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows; the former chairman of the Freedom Caucus. Meadows is standing in the way of a deal, in his own words, and congressional Republican sources who spoke to Politico say Meadows is there to "blow it up."
Meadows attended the GOP lunch meeting on Tuesday where he assured the spending hawks that he's going to say 'No' to Democratic proposals.
“I’m comfortable saying ‘no’ and being the skunk at the garden party,” Meadows insisted.
So far, the Meadows-Mnuchin combo hasn't gotten anywhere. The White House and Senate Republicans wasted a week piecing together their own relief plan. Despite hours of private sessions with Pelosi and Schumer, there doesn’t seem to be any progress. Lawmakers in both parties also have rejected an offer by Trump and Mnuchin for a short-term extension of federal unemployment benefits that expire this week, in addition to keeping an eviction moratorium in place. [...]
Another senior Republican, speaking on the condition of anonymity, characterized Mnuchin and Meadows this way: “One is there to do a deal, and the other is there to blow it up.”
You know, there's something very familiar about this story and the way things are unfolding right now.
It takes me back to President Obama's second term in office -- and the first half of Trump's first term -- and I imagine Steve Mnuchin now knows how former Speakers Paul Ryan or John Boehner felt.
Mark Meadows is the former co-founder and chairman of the House Republican Freedom Caucus and he also tried to blow up every day deal Republicans and Democrats eventually agreed to over the past decade. And you know what? At the end of the day, he never succeeded.
Maybe he will this time; maybe Meadows will finally destroy the economy the way he tried to so many times before, but he does not have a winning record. And his predecessor, fellow Freedom Caucus co-founder Mick Mulvaney, did not have one either.
It's easy to throw bombs when you're on the sideline; when you're not the one who is ultimately responsible for making decisions and compromises. Every Republican who rises to power eventually learns that but only after they've spent years throwing bombs.
The Freedom Caucus never succeeded at achieving any of their legislative goals, but their highest ranking member still ascended to the White House where he got in line to lick Trump's boots.
For their part, Mnuchin says the two of them are just doing what Trump tells them to, but I think we can say that's only partially true. Meadows was forced to walk back an assertion that Trump was directly involved in negotiations over the weekend because Trump was actually on the golf course in Bedminster.