How the corona bailout fell apart

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On the roster: How the corona bailout fell apart - I’ll Tell You What: Party on the rug - Trump retreats to happy talk on coronavirus - Dramatic reversal in ad wars - It does lack basic civil rights and an economy…

From the moment that Congress passed its $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill in March, the battle was on over the next tranche of spending.

The scope of the economic and social disruption from the pandemic was so huge that the expectation that more money would inevitably follow spending already beyond 10 percent of our whole economy was as obvious as the mask on your face.

But that didn’t happen, and for several reasons.

The first was political. Congressional Republicans resented money going to big blue states where they believed the funds were being siphoned off to Democratic machine politics or subsidizing a shutdown they believe was intended to hurt the economy and President Trump’s chances for reelection. Prior to the deadly summer wave that swept through the South and Midwest, it was common to hear about this geo-political divide.

Democrats, meanwhile, saw an opportunity to force Republicans to admit defeat in their effort to talk down the threat while simultaneously funding what amounted to a letter to Santa of Democratic policy priorities. The message: If you don’t vote for a $3 trillion package that includes lots of special interest goodies you’re a monster who wants people to die.

The second was practical. The original stimulus worked far better in some ways that its creators had imagined while much vaunted programs proved to be a fizzle. But whatever the reasons, the economy stabilized. You can get away with almost anything during the opening stages of a crisis, and they did. Now we face the grueling work of climbing out of the hole. Cutting seven points off the real unemployment rate since April was good, but we’re only halfway home. And as in most things, the last part is the hardest part. Mailing out free money to individuals and giving subsidies to businesses can ease short-term pain but can’t produce long-term economic growth.

The third was chronological. The closer we got to the November elections the less willing either side was to give the others a victory.

But the number one reason why there hadn’t been another bill dropping sacks of cash like Arthur Carlson pushing turkeys out of a helicopter was that Republicans couldn’t agree on what they wanted.

Until last week.

Despite what you saw being said publicly, the real division wasn’t between Republicans and Democrats, but rather between the Trump administration and the Senate GOP. Trump, who is currently throwing everything he can lay his hands on to try to turn the election around, has very much wanted money to be spent before the fall. Senate Republicans, for the reasons mentioned above, were not interested in drawing themselves primary challengers with what would be called a multi-billion blue-state bailout.
That wasn’t good for the blue and swing-state senators on the GOP side. Though a minority in their conference, those members are the ones on whose fates this fall the Senate majority will depend. Susan Collins can’t run as a bipartisan dealmaker without making a bipartisan deal.

After much anguish, Senate Republicans got together and backed the Healthcare, Economic Assistance, Liability, and Schools Act – a $1 trillion boost to the original bill. They knew Democrats would filibuster it but getting all their members, other than Rand Paul, behind the plan was a key step in shifting pressure from Republicans back on the other side. To have Democrats blocking instead of Republicans ducking was the first good news on this front for the GOP in some time.

Collins’ counterparts on the House side, the moderates who made the Democratic majority in the lower chamber, tore into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team in a conference call this week.

Media mainstay Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., was quoted as saying: “My conviction is to actually do my go***mn job and come up with a solution for the American people. We have to bring something to the floor.”

Holding out for $3 trillion when there’s no real offer on the table is one thing. But it’s another when there’s an alternative. And with the adorably named Problem Solvers Caucus pushing a split-the-difference package, holding out gets even harder.

Which, of course, brings us President Trump today telling Senate Republicans to “go for the much higher numbers ... it all comes back to the USA anyway.” No doubt frustrated by the slow pace on something he believes to be crucial to his re-election, Trump today told his fellow GOPers to feel the stimulus love – including checks for taxpayers just before they vote.

But the only way the Senate could pass a bill like the ones Trump and Pelosi are imagining would be to let the Democrats drive and try to get enough Republicans to back a blue-team bill. And that is not going to happen in a Senate run by Mitch McConnell. It’s just not in his members’ interest to break down now. The dude who froze out Merrick Garland in 2016 is not going to suddenly go wobbly in 2020.

Our guess is that some additional relief money will be spent as part of the coming deal on avoiding a government shutdown in two weeks, but the prospects of some large-scale deal before members flee in mid-October look about as good as the chances of apple bobbing while wearing a corona mask.

“Would it be wonderful if, under the pressure of all these difficulties, the convention should have been forced into some deviations from that artificial structure and regular symmetry which an abstract view of the subject might lead an ingenious theorist to bestow on a Constitution planned in his closet or in his imagination?” – James Madison, writing about the difficulties of creating a proper form of government, Federalist No. 37

Smithsonian: “In Jane Austen's Emma, the title character's rival Jane Fairfax marvels at the efficiency of the mail: ‘The post-office is a wonderful establishment!’ she declares. … The regularity of the mail in Austen's novels is often the heart of the story. Indeed, it is generally agreed that Austen's most famous work, Pride and Prejudice, began as an epistolary novel called First Impressions, consisting exclusively of letters between the characters. The epistolary novel was one of the main traditions from which Austen's remarkable realism emerged, and in each of her six full-length novels, letters serve (quite naturally) as crucial points in developing plot and character. To imagine an Austen novel without letters would be, to borrow a word from Jane Fairfax, astonishing. Now, Barbara Heller, a set decorator for film and television, has curated a special edition of Pride and Prejudice that offers readers handwritten reproductions of the 19 letters that appear in the novel, artfully rendered by calligraphers at the New York Society of Scribes.” 

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Trump: 43.6 percent       
Biden: 50.6 percent       
Size of lead: Biden by 7 points       
Change from one week ago: Biden ↓ 0.6, Trump ↑ 1 point       
[Average includes: Fox News: Trump 46% - Biden 51%; Kaiser Family Foundation: Trump 43% - Biden 48%; Monmouth University: Trump 44% - Biden 51%; CNN: Trump 43% - Biden 51%; Quinnipiac University: Trump 42% - Biden 52%.]   

(270 electoral votes needed to win) 
Toss-up: (109 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15), Iowa (6) 
Lean R/Likely R: (180 electoral votes) 
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes) 

Average approval: 43.6 percent       
Average disapproval: 53.6 percent       
Net Score: -10 points    
Change from one week ago: ↑ 0.4 points     
[Average includes: Gallup: 42% approve - 56% disapprove; Fox News: 48% approve - 51% disapprove; Kaiser Family Foundation: 45% approve - 52% disapprove; Monmouth University: 42% approve - 55% disapprove; CNN: 41% approve - 54% disapprove.]     

We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM. 

After getting through the all-important topics of chips and cats, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt get into politics. They discuss what a series of recent polling reveals about the Trump campaign's messaging, the nation's hypothetical response to a Trump victory on election day, and what a generic congressional ballot can tell us about the current state of play for the Senate. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE 

NYT: “President Trump denied on Tuesday that he downplayed the threat of the coronavirus that has taken more than 195,000 lives in the United States, directly contradicting his own recorded words in which he admitted doing exactly that. And then he proceeded to downplay the pandemic even further. Appearing at a [ABC News] town-hall-style event in Philadelphia, Mr. Trump presented a view of the pandemic radically at odds with the view of public health officials, insisting again that the virus would disappear on its own and contending that ‘we’re rounding the corner’ of the crisis. He cast doubt on the value of wearing masks, citing the wisdom of restaurant waiters over the counsel of his own medical advisers. … ‘It is going to disappear — it’s going to disappear, I still say it,’ he said. ‘You’ll develop herd — like a herd mentality. It’s going to be — it’s going to be herd-developed, and that’s going to happen. That will all happen.’” 

Feds announce vaccine plan, but not on Trump’s timetable - AP: “The government outlined a sweeping plan Wednesday to make vaccines for COVID-19 available for free to all Americans, assuming a safe and effective shot is developed, even as top health officials faced questions about political interference with virus information reaching the public. … The whole enterprise faces remaining skepticism. Only about half of Americans said they’d get vaccinated in an Associated Press-NORC poll taken in May. Since then, questions have only mounted about whether the government is trying to rush treatments and vaccines to help President Donald Trump’s reelection chances. Although Trump asserted Tuesday that a vaccine could be three to four weeks away, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, made clear to Congress on Wednesday that any version available this year would be in ‘very limited supply.’ The shot wouldn’t be broadly available to most of the U.S. population until the summer or fall of 2021, he estimated.” 

Gates warns of politicizing vaccine - CBS News: “Bill Gates is alarmed by what he views as the Trump administration's bungled response to the coronavirus, and fears that politics will erode public confidence in the eventual vaccine. … Gates also criticized Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, who critics say exaggerated the findings of a Mayo Clinic study on the benefits of using convalescent blood plasma as a treatment for COVID-19, only to backtrack the next day. ‘We saw with the completely bungled plasma statements that when you start pressuring people to say optimistic things, they go completely off the rails. The FDA lost a lot of credibility there,’ Gates said in an interview Tuesday on Bloomberg Television. … President Donald Trump on Labor Day asserted that a coronavirus vaccine could be ready ‘during the month of October’ — just weeks before the November 3 presidential election.” 

FiveThirtyEight: “For months, President Trump’s campaign boasted that its campaign operation was a ‘juggernaut’ and compared it to the powerful Death Star. Nowhere was that more evident to the general public than on the television airwaves. According to data from Kantar/Campaign Media Analysis Group, from early May through July 28, 2020, the Trump campaign and Republican outside groups spent an estimated $80.1 million to air 161,744 ads on local broadcast, national network and national cable TV for the presidential general election. By contrast, Joe Biden’s campaign and Democratic outside groups spent an estimated $44.2 million and aired only 66,875 ads for the presidential general election during that period. …Republican Death Star stopped being fully armed and operational in late July — while Democrats began to step up their game. From July 29 through Sept. 14, Republican forces aired just 107,816 ads at an estimated cost of $71.5 million, while Democratic forces aired 183,341 ads for an estimated $107.1 million.” 

Biden ups ante, spending $65M on ad blitz this week - Fox News: “Flush with fundraising dollars, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's campaign announced Wednesday morning that it’s dishing out an eye-popping $65 million this week for an ad blitz on TV, digital, radio and print. Biden’s campaign described the buy as ‘the single largest paid media investment the campaign has made to date,’ and deputy press secretary Matt Hill tweeted that the former vice president’s team is ‘going big on paid media and reaching voters across the map.’ The campaign spotlighted that the ads will run in 10 key general election battleground states: Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Nebraska and Minnesota.” 

ABC News: “It's a close contest in Wisconsin heading into the final seven weeks of the 2020 presidential campaign, while women, suburban residents and independents are among the groups lifting Joe Biden to a substantial lead in Minnesota, according to a pair of new ABC News/Washington Post polls. Views on the economy and the coronavirus pandemic define the race, and the course of both may prove decisive. And turnout is a wildcard: As is the case nationally, President Donald Trump benefits from much greater enthusiasm among his supporters, who are far more apt to plan to vote on Election Day. That makes Biden's ability to mobilize early and absentee voting central to the outcome. Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by fewer than 23,000 votes out of 3 million cast. Today Biden has 52% support among likely voters there, with 46% for Trump -- not a statistically significant difference given the survey's margin of sampling error. In Minnesota, by contrast, Biden holds a clear advantage, 57%-41%, in what's been a hoped-for Trump pickup after his narrow 45,000-vote loss four years ago.” 

Poll: Collins trials, Graham in tight race, McConnell in a walk - Quinnipiac University: “In three high-profile United States Senate races in Maine, South Carolina, and Kentucky where longtime Republican incumbents are seeking re-election, only one of those incumbents has a clear lead, one is now an underdog, and one is locked in a dead heat, according to a Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters in each of the states released today. These are the first surveys of likely voters in the 2020 election cycle in Maine, South Carolina, and Kentucky by the Quinnipiac University… Democrat Sara Gideon leads the race among likely voters for the U.S. Senate in Maine 54 - 42 percent over Republican Senator Susan Collins, who is seeking her fifth term. … Senator Lindsey Graham, who is seeking his fourth term in the U.S. Senate, is tied with his Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison. Forty-eight percent of likely voters support Graham, while 48 percent support Harrison. … Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is seeking a seventh term, leads the race for U.S. Senate in Kentucky 53 - 41 percent over Democratic challenger Amy McGrath. … In Maine, former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Trump in the race for the White House 59 - 38 percent.”

GOPers on Homeland Security committee give green light to go after Obama officials before election - Politico  

Government funding negotiations hit roadblock from Census deadlines dispute - Roll Call

Big Ten decision to play this fall creates unpredictable playoff race USA Today

“All this bullsh** about how the president is going to stay in office and seize power? I’ve never heard of any of that crap. I mean, I’m the attorney general. I would think I would have heard about it.” – Attorney General Bill Barr describing how ‘liberals project’ with the Chicago Tribune. 

“I enjoy reading the Halftime Report regularly, not because I agree with your analysis and opinion with the same regularity, but because I generally find that analysis and opinion to be thoughtful and informed. I often disagree, but the Report is thought provoking and, therefore, a welcome departure from obviously agenda driven media like the NYT and Washington Post. It was disappointing to read what borders on a sophist response to the reader from Wheat Ridge! I found myself shaking my head in disbelief as you built the mental image of your deep blue reporter heroically building her education and career through sacrifice and hard work and subsequently excusing her abject failure to ask meaningful, information eliciting question as a function of her background! Gosh! What right do we have to expect any more than her intractable, deeply partisan mindset would present! We should understand and excuse seemed to be the argument that you were offering! With respect, that is ridiculous on its face!  There is no suggestion that the reporter is ‘crooked!’ But it would seem that it would be as obvious to you as it is to any casual observer that those silly questions prostitute the profession and are unworthy! Anyone, man or woman, who doesn’t respect the special obligations of a journalist and yields to his or her base biases really ought to find another line of work!  They certainly are not serving the public! And, to pretend that they do not precisely understand what they are doing is to dismiss the obvious! If it walks like a duck........! All the love and patience in the world will not elicit useful information when the issue is time perishable which the election certainly is! Having said all of that, I do appreciate and look forward to reading the Halftime Report daily!” – Carl C. Watson, Niceville, Fla. 

[Ed. note: I guess I’m missing the point. What would be more crooked than knowingly asking the wrong questions to advantage one side or another in an election? What else could it be but corruption? If the idea is to improve media coverage and make it more fair, how will it help to accuse people of corruption who do not believe themselves to be corrupt? We can certainly find lots of instances of journalistic corruption -- fake quotes, fabricated stories, featherbedding etc. Like in any profession, malfeasance is sometimes part of the problem. What I’m telling you, though, is that the salient complaints here are about misfeasance. The reporters questioning Biden did not think of great, probing questions and then chuck them because they wanted to help the Democrat. They were asking what they thought were the best questions. It just so happens that they were wrong. But when you accuse them of prostiution and knowing misconduct what’s left to say? They’re sure not listening to you and you’re sure not getting more out of your news consumption. Ignorance does not excuse us from our duties, but understanding the difference between problems that arise from ignorance and those that arise from malign intent is an important first step in solving a problem. You have every right to lambaste, insult and degenerate these people, just as some progressives have every right to say that Trump supporters are racist, greedy and corrupt. It may feel nice for them to warm their hands over the coals of self righteousness, but it won’t do anything to solve the problems we all face.

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown. 

Moscow Times: “Venus is a ‘Russian planet,’ the head of Russia’s state space agency said Tuesday following new research that suggests there could be life on the second planet from the sun. The research, published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday, details British and American scientists’ discovery of phosphine gas in Venus’ clouds and puts forward possible theories for its origin, including that of extraterrestrial life. …Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said prior research by Russian scientists indicated that the planet is inhospitable to life. ‘Our country was the first and only one to successfully land on Venus,’ Rogozin said. ‘The [Russian] spacecraft gathered information about the planet — it is like hell over there.’ Roscosmos also announced plans Tuesday to launch an independent Russian expedition to Venus ‘without involving wide international cooperation.’ The expedition will take place in addition to the previously planned Venera-D mission, which is being carried out in cooperation with the United States.” 

“We simply cannot concede to Kim Jong Un the capacity to annihilate American cities.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) discussing the crisis with North Korea in the Washington Post on April 20, 2017. 

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.