Editor's Note: This transcript was automatically transcribed, so mistakes are inevitable. You can contribute by proofreading the transcript or highlighting the mistakes. Sign up to be amongst the first contributors.
From The New York Times, I'm Michael Barbaro, this is The Daily. Today, a fight has erupted among congressional Republicans over how long and how generously government should help the unemployed during the pandemic. Nick fandoms on what that battle is really about. It's Tuesday, July 28th. Nic, tell me about this deadline coming up on Friday, so on Friday at the end of July, one of the key programs in the two trillion dollar economic relief package called the Keres Act that Congress passed this spring to deal with the coronavirus pandemic is set to expire.
This is the federal unemployment benefit. This extra six hundred dollars that the federal government has been putting into unemployment checks on top of whatever states give the tens of millions of Americans that are out of work. Right.
And the thinking was that state unemployment benefits are just how most people get by when they are laid off are kind of stingy. And because these layoffs were so widespread, the federal government needed to step in in an unusual way.
That's right. And, you know, six hundred dollars was arrived at by congressional Democrats. And the Treasury secretary, Steve Manoogian, adds something like a kind of average wage that they thought might be lost across the board. And though some Republicans were uneasy.
Mr. President, majority leader of the Senate, they ultimately set aside their concerns and ended up voting unanimously to put this program and others in place.
Our nation needed us to go big and go fast, and they did so today.
Mr. President, the Senate will act to help the people of this country weather this storm. Right.
And I think for many Americans, the sense was that this program, 600 hours a week from the federal government would probably last as long as widespread unemployment lasted stemming from the pandemic.
I think that that's right, that that was the assumption of many Americans. But Republicans never quite viewed it that way.
We have spent a lot of money in the last couple of months, but we've done so in the face of an emergency, kind of like the civilian equivalent of World War Two based on the whole stimulus bill, including this benefit as a kind of extraordinary measure for extraordinary circumstances, and that this was kind of a a bridge to float the economy and for the American people through this period where the government was asking them to stay home so that we could get the virus under control.
Look, I supported every one of these bills that has come through. I agree that we need emergency relief to help people, to help people through the crisis as that as a short term bridge loan.
But, you know, if that was a gamble and it was that this is going to be a temporary thing, Republicans do not come out where they want to. The virus has resurged in many states now across the south and west, you know, in states that are traditionally red states and are represented by Republicans.
So the question today is where are we and where do we go from here?
And the party now has to kind of come to terms with the fact that what they hoped would be a bridge is going to be a lot longer than they initially thought.
We had hoped we'd be on the way to saying goodbye to this health care. And clearly, it is not OK.
Right, which brings us back to this Friday expiration date, so do Republicans have intrinsic objections to just renewing the six hundred dollars a week?
So for most Republicans, the answer is yes. That 600 dollar figure, as we said, was arrived at, you know, honestly, but somewhat hastily back in March. And Republicans started voicing concerns at the time for 68 percent of people receiving it.
Right now, they are being paid more on unemployment than they made in their job.
And they've grown a lot louder since that. Six hundred dollars from the federal government on top of whatever states were giving people that were out of work, which is simply too generous.
And I'll tell you, I've spoken to small business owners all over the state of Texas who are trying to reopen it and actually was dis incentivizing and has dis incentivized many Americans from going back to work.
And they're calling their waiters and waitresses, the other busboys, and they won't come back. And of course, they won't come back as the federal government is paying, in some instances, twice as much money to stay home so ideologically.
Many Republicans in Congress were never comfortable with this six hundred dollar benefit at that level in the first place, and then they're certainly not comfortable with extending it into perpetuity.
So, Nick, with this program running out of time, how is this playing out among the Republicans?
So as Republicans are approaching these deadlines at the end of July, they're looking around and seeing a bunch of different inputs that are really difficult for them. On the one hand, Democrats are unabashedly and enthusiastically pushing to extend this six hundred dollar benefit through the end of the year and as long as it's needed. And, you know, at the same time, Republicans are having to reconcile themselves to the fact that, you know, the virus is spreading around the country.
There are signs in the last few weeks that the economy which was recovering is starting to potentially soften again. And they recognize for a variety of of reasons economically for the livelihood of the country and politically as they're looking ahead to November's elections, that it's simply not going to be an option not to have a plan. And so Republicans start trying to put together their own proposal for how to fix unemployment benefits going forward and a range of other programs to keep the economy afloat.
And it turns out it's a lot harder than they think it's going to be. What do you mean? Well, it turns out as they try to unpack this and get into the details of what might we do next, there's a pretty big split between two different camps of Republicans.
I asked my Republican colleagues, what in the hell are we doing? So one of them are the kind of arch conservatives that are really worried about federal spending, people like Ted Cruz.
But a number of senators at lunch get up and say, well, well, gosh, we need we need 20 billion for this. We need one hundred billion for this. And they're just really eager to spend money. What are you guys doing?
Senator Rand Paul, who compared his colleagues to a bunch of Bernie Bros.
With the way they were talking, I find it extraordinary that I just came from a Republican caucus meeting. That could be sort of the Bernie Brose Progressive Caucus have gone up.
And that is a sharp pejorative in the Senate Republican conference. I would think this is insane. It's got to stop or ruining the country and there has to be some voice left for fiscal conservatives conservatism in this country.
This group is just frankly uneasy about the two trillion dollars that they spent back in the spring and is not interested in seeing the federal government add to the deficit, add to the debt and further involve itself in the US economy.
I, for one, am alarmed where the country is heading. I'm also alarmed that my party has forgotten what they actually stand for. There is no difference now between the two parties on spending now.
Every time at the other end of the spectrum are a group of more moderate or middle of the road Republicans who are up for reelection this fall and are actually having to face the voters in many cases in swing states or blue states where President Trump and the Republican response to the pandemic have been deeply unpopular. People like Cory Gardner or Thom Tillis?
Well, I think we have to build on what we did with the Kahrizak almost three trillion dollars to help individuals to provide a supplement for unemployment, to help, you know, who have really staked their re-election on the government's response to this crisis and on showing that they are effectively leading the country through one of its most challenging periods in anybody's memory and joining with them on that side.
This crisis is far from over. Are some of the kind of best known leaders of the Republican Party on Capitol Hill for weeks now.
I have made it clear that further legislation out of the Senate will be a serious. Out to the crisis. So Mitch McConnell, the majority leader from Kentucky, and John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas who's one of his longtime deputies, is the impact of covid-19 has grown.
So has the need for assistance seem to recognize that not only are the fates of individual senators up in the air, but the Republican Party's prospects up and down the ticket this fall may well be tied up into how they are judged to have handled this crisis and doing what the conservatives want. And basically, you know, stopping now and saying we've done what we need to do is not an option for that group.
Nick, how much of that debate you just described is being informed by the political realities surrounding the single most important person in the party at this moment, which is President Trump?
I think it's inescapable for elected Republicans. And it's not just the way that the public seems to be viewing President Trump and giving him poor, very poor grades on handling the pandemic, which could hurt the whole Republican Party in November. It's also the kind of erratic nature of his leadership and engagement on this issue, you know, itself. And so they're working with his treasury secretary to iron out the details. But this is not a negotiation that President Trump is leading or even all that active.
And they're trying to do whatever they can to bail out the party, not to please President Trump in this case. And that has added another kind of layer of interest and unpredictability to this whole thing, which we have not seen a lot of in the last three and a half years.
And what does that tell you, that they're choosing this moment to do that?
Well, I think whether they want to acknowledge it or not, Republicans are starting to sense that their party is is really in trouble, that if things aren't turned around quickly, you know, they may not only lose the White House, but really get wiped out in November and are thinking in different ways about why that is and what the party may need to look like in a world that's just starting to dawn on them as a possibility of being kind of post Trump.
So, in other words, this battle over 600 hours a week and what this entire new version of a relief package looks like, it's not really just about what's in a piece of legislation like this. It's about the identity of the Republican Party at a time where it may need a new identity because theoretically, Donald Trump could lose and the Republican Party would no longer be just the party of Donald Trump.
That's right. So while they're very much focused on how is the party going to be viewed in November, you know, they're really kind of foreshadowing or staking out positioning for this potentially larger battle to come over what Republicanism really looks like after Donald Trump has defined it for four or five years.
And, you know, some of these folks are not new to their positions, but they recognize that there may soon be more of a need to kind of assert their views and the primacy of those views against others in the Republican Party. We'll be right back. The capture is a new Peacocke original series that explores pressing questions about surveillance and misinformation in a post truth world seeing can be deceiving, hailed by critics as a thinking man's bodyguard. The capture is a modern day spy drama set in London that begins with the arrest of a former soldier and then spirals into a thrilling conspiracy involving manipulated video evidence.
All episodes of the capture are available now on Peacocke, the new streaming service from NBC Universal. Sign up at Peacocke TV.com to stream now. So, Nick, where does this very high stakes ideological battle within the Republican Party, where does it leave this economic relief package? So it's up to Mitch McConnell basically to try and pull together these different factions and arrive at a bill that deals with the expiring unemployment benefits and a host of other kind of programs and priorities, basically to try and reconcile those differences and put together a bill that can be Republicans starting point when they go to the negotiating table with Democrats.
Mm hmm. And so that's where we were by the middle of last week.
And as he tries to work out those details with the White House and run it by his Republican colleagues, there's a bunch of snafus along the way. They pushed past some small deadlines, but in the end, they're unable to introduce their bill because those differences turn out to have been more significant that Republicans even wanted to let on.
So the Republicans cannot come up with any kind of consensus bill to salvage this program that we've been talking about.
So as of Thursday morning, no. And as lawmakers head for the exits for the weekend without a proposal for how to fix a whole host of programs, they have not arrived at a solution on a range of issues, including what to do about this expiring six hundred dollar unemployment benefit. But their staff and Treasury Secretary Manoogian Meadows, the White House chief of staff, worked through the weekend to try and iron out some of these details.
Good afternoon, everyone. We've been we meeting Senate Republicans.
The administration have been consulting over the last few weeks by Monday afternoon what they finally introduce with what we think is an appropriate amount of additional debt to be added.
We're talking about a trillion dollars is a plan that is roughly a trillion dollars.
And we've allocated that in a way that we think makes the most sense.
Some of that goes to schools to help them reopen and for more testing and contact tracing.
So with that, I'm going to call on my colleagues who have developed the various and on this key question of unemployment benefits, Republicans propose a real overhaul to the way that they would work.
Conceptually, we know that that's Senator Gregg. OK, number one, we're going. So they say that for the short term, we're going to cut that six hundred dollars down to two hundred dollars a week. Big cut, a pretty dramatic cut.
So we want to continue to help the unemployed, but we want to encourage work. And we've learned a very tough lesson that when you pay people not to work, what do you expect?
And they say that's just going to buy us time over the next few months for us to basically help states set up a new system where what we're going to try and do is make sure that every individual that's unemployed between the state government and the federal government ends up getting about 70 percent of what their old wages would have been.
We're going to have further tax relief for businesses to encourage hiring and rehiring. And we we want to do that to encourage people to get back to work and help the employer in the process support people in the meantime.
And so what Republicans are trying to do here is keep a safety net in place, but remove what they think is hindering people from going back to work.
Lastly, I hope that Democrats will come to the table and work out a bipartisan agreement. Thank you very much.
So in other words, if they can get this program up and operating, it will always make sense from a financial point of view for somebody to go and take their old job back or take a new job back, but not be so draconian that they're, you know, making the economic situation drastically worse or can be accused of forcing people towards soup kitchens or the streets.
So this is a classic compromise. In other words, we're going to keep the benefits, but not at six hundred dollars a week because they see that as. Not conservative and not incentivizing an economic recovery. That's right, but remember, this is just kind of the first step. This should have been the easy part for Republicans, because what they have coming is negotiations with Democrats who are in favor of keeping the benefit totally as it is and are already lining up to say basically that Republicans are giving a massive economic financial hit to individuals and the economy.
Right. When they need it most. And at this moment where the country's recovery seems to be teetering, is it going to keep going up or is it about to collapse again? And Democrats are not going to settle for two hundred dollars for any period of time.
So so given all that, what is likely to happen to this Republican bill in the Senate?
So the interesting thing about where Republicans find themselves as this bill that they're introducing probably couldn't even pass the Senate just on Republican votes.
And that leaves them in a pretty weak position as they head into negotiations with the Democrats, because remember to pass anything into law, even if there's a Republican president, a Republican Senate, you need the Democrats to get it through Congress. And they have a very long and expensive wish list of things that they'd like to see in legislation. And they're not going to be easy on the Republicans.
Nick, this may sound like a strange question, but do you think Republicans now regret ever agreeing to these enhanced unemployment benefits? I'm mindful of the fact that it was not a Republican idea. It was Democrats who pushed for it. As you have said, it cuts against a lot of Republican principles, but they agreed to it as a short term fix. And it turns out it's not going to be a short term fix because there's nothing short term about this pandemic.
And it is inevitably hard to take something like this away from people once you give it to them. So is it possible Republicans look back and think we should have never agreed to do this? I think there may be a small subset of fiscally conservative Republicans that feel that way, but my guess is that the vast majority felt like, hey, we did what we had to do back then and in the springtime, I mean, the economy was in freefall, remember, and the course of the virus was highly uncertain.
And the fundamental problem for them is that they envision the federal government having a relatively short term role to play in getting the country back on its feet and ready to fight against this virus. And it's just turned out to be for a lot of different reasons, a much more complicated, prolonged, expensive fight than they wanted. And honestly, Michael, at this point, it's hard to see how this situation resolves itself. Usually, you know, when you cover Congress for a while, you can kind of see the pattern of how these negotiations will work.
But the Republicans really find themselves pretty far up a stream without a paddle right now and need to be risks for them and consequences in every direction. And it's going to be a pretty fascinating next couple of weeks to see how and if they can reach an agreement with Democrats and one that some members of the party feel like doesn't completely undermine what they stand for.
Of course, weeks is not what people who are on this program have. They have days because this thing really does expire on Friday. That's right.
Many of the people receiving these benefits are living paycheck to paycheck or don't have a lot of savings to fall back on their can and will be very real consequences to this delay. And that's not to mention the whole host of other programs that are being debated by Congress right now that are touching different aspects of people's lives.
The longer this goes on, the effects just get magnified bigger and bigger and bigger, and it frankly makes the problem even harder to solve. Thank you, Nick. Thank you, Michael.
On Monday night, Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, met with White House officials to begin negotiations over a new economic relief package, including federal unemployment benefits.
Suffice to say that we hope that we would be able to reach an agreement. We clearly do not have shared values. Little progress was made during the two hour session. But afterward, the Democratic leaders made one thing clear. Congressional Republicans lack the votes to pass their own bill. We'll be right back. The following message is brought to you by Tracker Smith. Hi, I'm Malcolm Gladwell, host of Revisionist History. I'm also a lifelong runner, which is why I'm here to tell you about my favorite running brand tracks.
They make the most functional and beautiful product on the market. The secret is in their fabrics from odor, resisting merino wool to soft and stretchy Italian blends. It's the only running gear I wear to receive fifteen dollars off your first daughter. Visit Track Smith Dotcom Daily. That's tracked Smith Dotcom. Slash the daily. Here's what else you need to know today on Monday. The pandemic touched the worlds of politics, business and sports. The Trump administration said that its national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, had contracted the virus, becoming the most senior White House official yet to test positive.
Meanwhile, the parent company of Google Alphabet told employees that they would not be expected to return to the office until next summer, suggesting that work from home policies will extend well past the end of the year. Finally, the Miami Marlins canceled two upcoming baseball games after 12 players and two coaches tested positive for the coronavirus. The outbreak was disclosed just four days after the beginning of the baseball season.
My level of concern went from about an eight to 12. You know, it hits home now that it's, you know, half a team and in fact, it goes from one city to another.
So during a news conference, the manager of the Washington Nationals expressed alarm over the news.
You know, I got friends on on that Miami team, and it really stinks. Now, I'm not going to lie. I'm not going to sugarcoat it. See, those guys go down like that. It's not good for them. It's not good for anybody.
That's it for the day. I'm Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow. As a surgeon and president of Howard University, Dr. Wayne Frederick believes even our toughest times can lead to strength and change.
This is a difficult debate, but it was strengthened in a way that no classroom activity could ever have.
I'm Alicia Burke, host of the podcast that made all the difference. I talked to achievers about how they're managing the current moment and charting a course for the future. Find that made all the difference anywhere. You get your podcasts created by Bank of America.