The economy contracted by the largest amount ever recorded in the second quarter. Unemployment claims rose for the second week in a row this week after trending downward since March. A $600 unemployment insurance payment that helped prop up consumer spending–;and kept food on the table and shelter overhead for millions of Americans–;expires Friday.

But the Senate, under the stewardship of GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, left town Thursday for a three-day weekend. Why? Because Senate Republicans and the White House have been too unfailingly incompetent to agree amongst themselves on a new legislative relief package, let alone start serious talks with Democrats.

On Thursday, McConnell tried to cover up the GOP’s unmitigated disaster by tweeting out a helpful civics lesson informing readers that it takes 60 votes to pass bills through the Senate. “So the American people cannot get any of the additional relief that Republicans want to give them unless Democrats will come to the table,” McConnell wrote.

What a shameless insult to the American people and everyone who’s depending on congressional lawmakers to do their jobs during a global pandemic that Republicans and Donald Trump have not only failed to contain, but made exponentially worse through their disdain for science and intentional spread of virus disinformation.

The fact is, House Democrats passed their HEROES relief package more than two months ago. Senate Democrats have been imploring McConnell to come to the negotiating table for over a month. When McConnell and the White House finally started talks last week, they cut Democrats out entirely, ensuring that whatever they came up with would require another lengthy round of negotiations. And when Republicans finally did introduce their bill, it was so bad, nearly half the Senate GOP caucus was set to defect on it and McConnell immediately started backing away from provisions within it. What a sad, sad excuse for a lawmaker.

Yet even now, as the $600 weekly payments end the day before rent is due for millions of Americans, the White House and Senate Republicans are still squabbling amongst themselves. On Friday, the White House indicated that Trump is entirely willing to scrap the one provision McConnell has called his “;red line”;–;providing liability protections to businesses and schools so they can’t get sued by workers who contract the coronavirus in a work setting.

In fact, the White House said it could negotiate directly with Democrats to cut a deal, though McConnell certainly has the power to block any bill that leaves out his pet issue from reaching the Senate floor. That said, if Democrats and the White House really did come to an agreement, the pressure on McConnell would be enormous since he doesn’t even have the strategic skills to line up the GOP caucus behind one bill.

The truth is, Trump is likely more anxious to pass a relief bill because, electorally speaking, he simply cannot afford to hamstring the economy any more than his disastrous coronavirus policies already have. And frankly, neither can Senate Republicans if they want any chance of keeping their majority this fall. But Republican lawmakers get a pretty penny from all the corporate entities pushing for that liability shield. That’s clearly where McConnell’s focus is, yet here’s the reality as voters are little more than a month away from starting early voting:

A good day for the physical New York Times

–; Brent Staples (@BrentNYT) July 31, 2020

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