Election, COVID Driving DC
We’re meandering into the summer doldrums. The House and one-third of the Senate are eager to get home to virtually campaign for reelection, and political party national conventions are only a few weeks away. The public is increasingly fed up with their usual voluntary personal summer laziness being imposed upon them by an unseen virus, and even the media seem to be running out of steam given the stories don’t change much day to day.
In any event, that pesky November 3 election colors everything in Washington, DC, and in that context, COVID 19 pandemic leadership — extant and potential; unemployment, jump-starting the overall economy, foreign relations and trade, and who’s likely to get us out of this mess with the least collateral damage are vie for attention.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (D, KY) announcement August 7, that he won’t unleash the Senate for its summer break until a phase four COVID 19 economic stimulus package is agreed to says two things: McConnell is as politically smart as asserted a week or so ago on this site, and the aforementioned deal is within striking distance. I’m guessing there will be a weekend “breakthrough,” preceded by all kinds of doom and gloom, but ultimately featuring all the compromises obvious weeks ago. All this deal needs to get the green light from both sides is increasing pressure from the respective party caucuses to get the darn thing done so they can get out of town. The president releasing at least the major points of a threatened executive order also says a deal is close. Once in hand, everyone can head to the hustings to take credit for the multi-trillion-dollar package.
Meanwhile, USDA will continue to cut and mail checks from its dwindling pot of CARES Act funding, but has assured folks it has the wherewithal to dole out dollars through the end of this month. There’s no doubt the White House will accelerate tossing various policy/program bones to farmers and ranchers in other areas of fiscal concern, e.g., the most recent Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) biofuels blending mandate that “far exceeded” ethanol makers’ expectations, according to reports, as well as EPA’s apparent full retreat on small refiner exemptions from said mandate.
The next big announcement will be former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate pick, expected early next week. For the third time in history, a major party’s vice presidential candidate will be female, and will likely be a woman of color. Predicting Biden’s pick is a waste of time at this juncture, suffice it to say most of the short list candidates I’ve read about have very little connection to voters in rural America. Fingers crossed whoever she is, she will be fully qualified to take the country’s reins should that be necessary.
The president, in full-on campaign mode, will ramp up his media campaign casting China as the global bogey man on all levels. While vilifying TikTok, Microsoft’s latest takeover target, he’s said he sees no reason right now to engage in those promised phase two trade talk/tariff detente discussions, even as China continues to try and meet its U.S. agricultural product purchase obligations under phase one. Admittedly, overall China buying is less robust than hoped or promised – unless you’re a soy or pork producer – but purchases are consistent. Trade talks with the European Union (EU) aren’t happening, but a separate pact with the United Kingdom (UK) appears doable once the fog of rhetoric clears on both sides of the Atlantic. A sort of, kind of trade deal with India is likely, as well.
Keep those fingers crossed and ignore the campaign cacophony until the first presidential debate. That’s when the real fun begins.