The Corner

Politics & Policy

The House Democrats’ Coronavirus Extortion Gambit Backfires

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi makes a statement about coronavirus economic-relief legislation on Capitol Hill, March 23, 2020. (Joshua Roberts/Pool/via Reuters)

The House’s voice vote passing the Senate’s version of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill puts the final nail in the coffin of House Democrats’ deeply misguided effort to pass their own version of the bill, an effort that delayed the badly needed relief package by days. Taking a cue from Majority Whip James Clyburn’s argument that “This is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision,” the 1,119-page House bill was larded with progressive policy priorities on topics with little or no connection to the pandemic: carbon emissions, corporate board diversity, federally imposed rules for early voting and voter registration, collective bargaining, a minimum wage hike, a Postal Service bailout, student loan forgiveness, permanent changes to Medicaid and Obamacare, minority-owned credit unions, funding for the arts, and many, many more.

Anyone who has followed Washington politics for any period of time knows that the habit of sticking unrelated goodies into big, must-pass bills is both longstanding and bipartisan. Every bill of this nature, especially one so massive and sprawling, will have a little gift here for some policy agenda, a payoff there for a favored constituency, and a giveaway, or several, for important donors. But what was striking here was the sheer piggishness of the grab. The House Democrats’ bill read less like an appropriation than like an entire presidential campaign platform, wedged into a bill that was supposed to pass a Senate and White House controlled by the opposite party. The point of cramming favors into a bill like this is to ensure passage of the favor, not sink the bill. And sink it did, like the soldiers of Hernán Cortés who drowned fleeing Tenochtitlan because they had loaded their armor with gold looted from its treasury.

The tone-deafness of Clyburn and Nancy Pelosi, who have typically been savvier operators than this in the past, raises real questions about the judgment of the geriatric leadership of the Democratic caucus, and whether they are truly in charge anymore or getting pushed around internally by their party’s ideological extremists. Nobody in their right mind could have expected even the most supine Senate Republicans to take this bill lying down. And there was virtually no serious effort to actually defend the inclusion of all this extraneous material in the bill. At best, Pelosi may have judged that President Trump was desperate enough for any bill to demand a quick compromise if the delay spooked the markets further, but a bluff needs to be credible to work, and this wasn’t. At worst, Pelosi held up the final result just to make a symbolic showing to the very wing of her party that just got trounced in the presidential primary. Either way, a bad look all around for the Speaker and her majority.

Most Popular

The League of Morons

Let’s look back at the two and a half years when the greatest country on earth went crazy. What was that all about? How did it happen? How could so much have happened based on so little? Did we learn anything? It’ll take a keenly observant artist to put it all in perspective. Fortunately two artists have ... Read More

The League of Morons

Let’s look back at the two and a half years when the greatest country on earth went crazy. What was that all about? How did it happen? How could so much have happened based on so little? Did we learn anything? It’ll take a keenly observant artist to put it all in perspective. Fortunately two artists have ... Read More
Elections

Biden’s Middle-Class Tax Pledge

Biden is pledging not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year. As I note in my Bloomberg Opinion column, Democratic proposals to increase income taxes keep getting narrower in scope. In 1993, President Bill Clinton and a Democratic Congress raised income taxes on households making more than ... Read More
Elections

Biden’s Middle-Class Tax Pledge

Biden is pledging not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year. As I note in my Bloomberg Opinion column, Democratic proposals to increase income taxes keep getting narrower in scope. In 1993, President Bill Clinton and a Democratic Congress raised income taxes on households making more than ... Read More
Education

Science, Coronavirus, and Notre Dame

A few weeks back, the University of Notre Dame outlined its plan for reopening campus in the fall, detailing the way in which the administration hopes to bring students back to South Bend to resume in-person classes. Like the overwhelming majority of colleges and universities in the U.S., Notre Dame shifted all ... Read More
Education

Science, Coronavirus, and Notre Dame

A few weeks back, the University of Notre Dame outlined its plan for reopening campus in the fall, detailing the way in which the administration hopes to bring students back to South Bend to resume in-person classes. Like the overwhelming majority of colleges and universities in the U.S., Notre Dame shifted all ... Read More
Economy & Business

Is Biden Lying about Taxes?

A number of commenters to this post raise the possibility that Biden is lying when he says he won't raise taxes on households making less than $400,000. He might be. Maybe as president he would propose a tax increase on people making more than that, watch congressional Democrats lower the threshold, and then say ... Read More
Economy & Business

Is Biden Lying about Taxes?

A number of commenters to this post raise the possibility that Biden is lying when he says he won't raise taxes on households making less than $400,000. He might be. Maybe as president he would propose a tax increase on people making more than that, watch congressional Democrats lower the threshold, and then say ... Read More

How to Avoid a China-Led World Order

As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded, it has opened our eyes to China’s rapidly expanding role in the international order and global economy. Beijing’s outsize role in the World Health Organization has come under attack, as has the muscular diplomacy used by China’s foreign ministry in responding to ... Read More

How to Avoid a China-Led World Order

As the COVID-19 crisis has unfolded, it has opened our eyes to China’s rapidly expanding role in the international order and global economy. Beijing’s outsize role in the World Health Organization has come under attack, as has the muscular diplomacy used by China’s foreign ministry in responding to ... Read More
World

The 82-Day Dictatorship

One wonders if it will be recorded in the history books that from March 30th to June 20th Hungary lived as the shortest dictatorship in European history, before voluntarily extinguishing itself. An odd act for a dictatorship. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary had used the coronavirus to make himself ... Read More
World

The 82-Day Dictatorship

One wonders if it will be recorded in the history books that from March 30th to June 20th Hungary lived as the shortest dictatorship in European history, before voluntarily extinguishing itself. An odd act for a dictatorship. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary had used the coronavirus to make himself ... Read More