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Big CARES Act 3.0 may be delayed beyond March as Biden will prefer a bipartisan agreement

calendar 26/01/2021 - 20:23 UTC

Stimulus addicted Wall Street is now relying heavily on Biden’s CARES Act 3.0 plan for $1.90T by March’21. But that may be delayed (except PUA benefits extension) further as Biden prefers bipartisan agreement/consensus rather than any cumbersome measure like the ‘budget reconciliation’ process. On CARES Act 3.0 front, late Monday, Biden sounded conciliatory with Republicans for a bipartisan package rather than going unilaterally for the budget reconciliation route to pass the same.

Biden said:

Well, look, the decision on reconciliation will be one made by the leaders of the House and the Senate.  But here’s the deal: I have been doing legislative negotiations for a large part of my life.  I know how the system works.  And what I’m not — I can’t guarantee anything at all, but I can say that what I’m going to be doing — and we’ve already begun — is making it clear to the leadership in the House and the Senate, as well as the — the group of 16, the group — the bipartisan group, as well as Republican individuals who have an interest in the issues that are in the package, and saying “Here’s what I’m doing, and here’s why I want to do it, here’s why I think we need to do it, and what kind of support can or can’t you give to that?”  And then we go on to the way in which we deal with legislation all the time.

You know, we — we didn’t have any votes for the recovery package when Barack and I came into office.  We were short three votes.  We didn’t know we had the votes until the day of the –- the day of the — of the — bringing it up.

And — but here’s the deal: You know, it’s interesting — and I know you ask a lot of these questions.  You know the answers, but you have to — to help educate the public as well; I’m not suggesting you don’t know what I’m about to say.  No one wants to give up on their position until there’s no other alternative.  They either have to decide that they don’t do what — they don’t support what is being proposed, or they insist on what they have, or they let it all go away fall.  I think we’re far from that point right now.

The decision to use reconciliation will depend upon how these negotiations go.  And let me make clear about negotiations: I’ve always believed part of the negotiation — on the part of a President and/or a chairman of a committee trying to get a major piece of legislation passed — is about consultation.

It’s not enough for me just to come up to you and say, “I like this.  I expect you to support it.”  I want to explain to you why I think it’s so important in this package that we have to provide money for additional vaccines, why I think it’s so important why we provide money to extend unemployment benefits, why I think it’s so important that we provide money to provide for the ability of people not to be thrown out of their apartments during this pandemic because they can’t afford their rent, and to make the case to you why I think and what I think the priorities within this piece — that we think the priorities are — I apologize — were within this legislation.

And I don’t expect we’ll know whether we have an agreement or to what extent the entire package will be able to pass or not pass until we get right down to the very end of this process, which will be probably in a couple of weeks.  But the point is, this is just the process beginning.

Unity also is: trying to reflect what the majority of the American people — Democrat, Republican, and independent — think is within the fulcrum of what needs to be done to make their lives and the lives of Americans better.  For example, if you look at the data — and I’m not claiming the polling data to be exact, but if you look at the data, you have — I think it’s — I hope I’m saying this correct –- you may correct me if I get the number wrong, I think it’s 57, 58 percent of the American people — including Republicans, Democrats, and independents — think that we have to do something about the COVID vaccine; we have to do something about making sure that people who are hurting badly, can’t eat, don’t have food, are in a position where they’re about to be thrown out of their apartments, et cetera, being able to have an opportunity to get a job — that they all think we should be acting, we should be doing more.

Unity also is trying to get, at a minimum — if you pass a piece of legislation that breaks down on party lines but it gets passed, it doesn’t mean there wasn’t unity; it just means it wasn’t bipartisan.  I’d prefer these things to be bipartisan because I’m trying to generate some consensus and take sort of the — how can I say it? — the vitriol out of all of this.  Because I’m confident — I’m confident, from my discussions, there are a number of Republicans who know we have to do something about the food insecurity for people in this pandemic.  I’m confident they know we have to do something about figuring out how to get children back in school.

There’s just — there are easy ways to deal with this.  One, if you’re anti-union, you can say it’s all because of teachers.  If you want to make a case though that it’s complicated, you say, “Well, what do you have to do to make it safe to get in those schools?”  And we’re going to have arguments.

For example, you know I proposed that we — because it was bipartisan, I thought it would increase the prospects of passage — the additional $1,400 in a direct cash payment to folks.  Well, there’s a legitimate reason for people to say, “Do you have the lines drawn the exact right way?  Should it go to anybody making over X-number of dollars or why?”  I’m open to negotiate those things.  That’s all.

I picked it because I thought it was rational, reasonable, and it had overwhelming bipartisan support in the House when it passed.  But this is all a bit of a moving target in terms of the precision with which this goes.  You’re asking about unity: 51 votes, bipartisan, et cetera.

The other piece of this is that the one thing that gives me hope that we’re not only going to, sort of, stay away from the ad hominem attacks on one another, is that there is an overwhelming consensus among the major economists at home and in the world that the way to avoid a deeper, deeper, deeper recession, moving in the direction of losing our competitive capacity, is to spend money now too — from — from across the board, every major institution has said, “If we don’t invest now, we’re going to lose so much altitude, in terms of our employment base and our economic growth, it’s going to be harder to reestablish it.”  We can afford to do it now.  As a matter of fact, the — I think the response has been, “We can’t afford not to invest now.  We can’t afford to fail to invest now.”

And I think there’s a growing realization of that on the part of all but some very, very hard-edged partisans, maybe on both sides, but I think there is a growing consensus.  Whether we get it all done exactly the way I want it remains to be seen, but I’m confident that we can work our way through. We have to work our way through because, as I’ve said 100 times, there is no ability in a democracy for it to function without the ability to reach consensus.  Other- — otherwise it just becomes executive fiat or battleground issues that are — get us virtually nowhere.

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McConnell and two centrist Democrats ensure the continuity of Senate filibuster rule (60-super majority):

McConnell’ office issued a statement: McConnell on Preserving the Legislative Filibuster for Both Parties

 “Yesterday, two Democratic Senators confirmed they will not provide the votes to eliminate the legislative filibuster. The senior Senator for West Virginia issued a public ‘guarantee’: ‘I do not support doing away with the filibuster under any condition--Any chance of changing his mind? Quote: ‘None whatsoever.’

The senior Senator for Arizona made the same commitment. She opposes ending the legislative filibuster and ‘is not open to changing her mind.’ Our colleague informed me directly that under no circumstances would she reverse course.

Now, it should not be news that a few members of the majority pledge they won’t tear up a central rule. But the Democratic Leader was reluctant to repeat the step I took as Majority Leader in unified government when I ruled out that step on principle. Rather than relying on the Democratic Leader, I took the discussion directly to his members. Basic arithmetic now ensures that there are not enough votes to break the rule.

This victory will let us move forward with a 50-50 power-sharing agreement containing all the elements of the 2001 model---Because it will sit on the same foundation.

Four years ago, Republicans had just won unified control. President Trump and others pressured us heavily to scrap this rule when it was protecting Democrats. But we stood firm. I stood firm. I said we would not do that to our colleagues. No short-term policy win--justifies destroying the Senate as we know it. Especially since laws would become so brittle and reversible. So Democratic Senators used the 60-vote threshold to shape and block legislation. They stalled COVID relief. They blocked police reform. They stopped even modest measures to protect innocent life. The same tool that some Democrats now want to destroy, they used freely and liberally throughout their years in the minority. Republicans understood you don’t destroy the Senate for a fleeting advantage. Our friends across the aisle must see the same.

I’ve talked a lot about principle. We should also make this a little more tangible. If the Democratic majority were to attack the filibuster, they would guarantee themselves immediate chaos-- Especially in this 50-50 Senate. This body operates every day, every hour, by consent. And destroying the filibuster would drain comity and consent from this body to a degree that would be unparalleled in living memory.

Some examples:

The Constitution requires the Senate to have a quorum to do any business. Right now, a quorum is 51 Senators and the Vice President does not count. The majority cannot even produce a quorum on their own and one could be demanded by any Senator at almost any time. Our committees need quorums to function as well, and will also be evenly split. If this majority went scorched-earth, this body would grind to a halt as we’ve never seen.

Technically, it takes collegiality and consent for the majority to keep acting as the majority at any time they do not physically have a majority. In a scorched-earth, post-nuclear Senate that’s 50-50, every Senate Democrat and the Vice President could essentially just block out the next two years on their calendar. It takes unanimous consent to schedule most votes---To schedule speeches--To convene before noon--To schedule many hearings and markups.

As Democrats just spent four years reminding us, it takes consent to confirm even the lowest-level nominees at anything beyond a snail’s pace. None of us have ever seen a Senate where every single thing either happens in the hardest possible way or not at all.

Heck — once or twice every day, the Majority Leader reads through an entire paragraph of routine requests. Objections could turn each one into multiple lengthy roll-call votes. None of us on either side want to live in a scorched-earth Senate. The institution and the American people deserve better. But there’s no doubt that’s what we’d see if Democrats tear up this pivotal rule. It would become immediately and painfully clear to the Democratic majority that they had indeed just broken the Senate. This gambit would not speed the Democrats’ ambitions. It would delay them terribly. And it would hamstring the Biden presidency over a power grab which the President has spent decades warning against and still opposes.

Finally, at some point, the shoe would find its way to the other foot. When Republicans next controlled government, we’d be able to repeal every bill that had just been rammed through. And we’d set about defending the unborn, exploring domestic energy, unleashing free enterprise, defunding sanctuary cities, securing the border, protecting workers’ paychecks from union bosses… you get the picture. But a few years later, Democrats would try to flip it all back.

Instead of building stable consensus, we’d be chaotically swapping party platforms. Swinging wildly between opposite visions that would guarantee half the country is miserable and resentful at any time. We would have inherited resilient institutions but left behind a chaotic mess. This is a politically charged period. But when factional fever runs hot, when slender majorities are most tempted to ram through radicalism -- these are the times for which the guardrails exist in the first place.

Republicans said “no” to pushing the Senate over this precipice. When I could have tried to grab this power, I turned it down. Because the nation needs us to respect the framers’ design and the Senate’s structure. Because, as I said in a different context on January the 6th, we have a higher calling than endless partisan escalation. We placed our trust in the institution itself. In a common desire to do the right thing.  When I could have tried to grab this power, I turned it down. Because the nation needs us to respect the framers’ design and the Senate’s structure. Because, as I said in a different context on January the 6th, we have a higher calling than endless partisan escalation. We placed our trust in the institution itself. In a common desire to do the right thing.  I am grateful that’s been reciprocated by at least a pair of our colleagues across the aisle. I’m glad we’ve stepped back from this cliff. Taking that plunge would not be some progressive dream.  It would be a nightmare. I guarantee it.

Bottom line:

In U.S. politics, it’s very tough for any party, Democrats or Republicans to get the filibuster-proof supermajority of 60-seats. Now, Biden has to compromise on his liberal policies till at least the 2022 mid-term election, whether he got the supermajority in Senate or improve the tally at least (both House and Senate). Now Biden has to flat the COVID curve and bring the U.S. economy back to normal by 2022. For this, Biden has to take cooperation from Senate Republicans, not only on CARES Act but also on infra stimulus and various other policy measures. Thus, Biden will prefer the bipartisan rather than contentious ‘budget reconciliation’ route.

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