Analysis: Why Washington can’t meet its own deadline

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rolled out a $1 trillion stimulus proposal, which included a smaller weekly unemployment benefit than the current $600. It was a fraction of the Democrats’ $3 trillion ask. Yet the Republican plan, viewed as a starting place rather than set in stone, met resistance among fiscal hawks in the GOP caucus and from President Donald Trump himself.
Add that to the Democrats’ opposition, and hope began to dim for a compromise before the end of the week to quickly help Americans reeling from the pandemic.
Congress got another curveball this week, though had it kept its eye on the ball, it might have made better contact.
Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, an outspoken critic of mask mandates, tested positive for coronavirus after planning to travel on Air Force One with the President. The news broke open simmering issues with mask policies, testing and enforcement within the US Capitol complex.
It prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to issue a mask requirement for the House floor and all House buildings. The Senate, led by McConnell, has no such requirement. Back in May, Pelosi and McConnell turned down a White House offer to send rapid-testing resources to the Capitol. Leaders are now discussing a testing mandate for lawmakers, but nothing is official.
On Thursday, the nation learned just how dire its economic situation is. The US economy had experienced its worst drop on record, wiping out five years of economic gains — and showing just how many are hurting right now.
The Senate also adjourned, meaning members left town before any sort of deal could be made in advance of the midnight deadline.
The Point: Congressional leaders couldn’t even agree on a testing policy for all lawmakers this week, much less how to help the record number of Americans affected by this pandemic.