President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday took pains to suggest a potential short-term extension for federal aid. At the end of July, the CARES Act’s provisions on unemployment aid and evictions will expire. Many people will almost certainly be evicted on August 1 unless the government steps in.
“We ought to work on the evictions so that people don’t get evicted,” President Trump told reporters outside the White House. “You work on the payments for the people, and the rest of it we’re so far apart we don’t care. We really don’t care.”
The president noted that Republicans and Democrats are nowhere near agreement on another relief bill. August is looming, as is a two-week break from Congress, during which no work will be done on any bill for the American taxpayers. As such, the White House’s suggestion of just extending the existing bill is meant to be a clean out for Republicans and Democrats.
The coronavirus pandemic caught Republicans flat-footed. Their normal rhetoric, that the poorest people in society deserve the least help, is highly unpopular at the current moment. Millions of people are out of work due to the pandemic. This has brought many working-class people some perspective on what it’s like to struggle for food and housing.
As such, Republicans’ typically tough stance on low-income people has softened in response to historically bad polling of their performance. Now, with the CARES Act expiring in a matter of days, the GOP is struggling to assemble a bill that will address peoples’ needs during the pandemic. Many have balked at the idea of even more federal spending, however.
Senator Ted Cruz was alleged to have asked aloud, “What the hell are we doing?” during a lunch to hammer out the finer details of the bill.
Despite Republicans controlling both the White House and the Senate, the two are currently out of step on the relief bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has struggled to bring his party together in the midst of historic unemployment. McConnell is also keenly aware of the looming November election.
Public polling suggests that the Republican Senate majority could be in serious danger. The national response to the pandemic has been sluggish and unhelpful by many Americans. As such, they may vent their frustrations with the status quo at the ballot box, opting for new leadership to address the historic public health crisis.