Sunday show coverage of COVID-19 relief negotiations was again filled with false equivalency
For months, Republicans failed to make a proposal, and still are split on whether to continue COVID-19 aid at all. Instead of focusing on what was needed, Sunday shows instead frequently just blamed both sides for not coming to an agreement.
President Trump signed four executive orders following a congressional gridlock over negotiations about the second COVID-19 relief bill, which Republicans refused to enter into until the eleventh hour. Sunday political shows, however, continued with their false equivalency that both parties are to blame which forced the president’s hand.
The economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic have been devastating for millions of Americas. The Census Bureau estimated that sometime before July 21, nearly 30 million Americans did not have enough to eat. Millions are still unemployed, and the Congressional Budget Office expects the unemployment rate to remain “elevated” through 2021. Forty million people are reportedly at risk of being kicked out of their homes due to the pandemic, especially as eviction moratoriums across the country come to an end. The ending of enhanced unemployment benefits looks set to become an economic catastrophe.
It has been clear for months that August 1 would be when the coronavirus economic crisis would really escalate. And yet, Republicans did nothing, even after House Democrats in May passed the $3 trillion Heroes Act, a bill that would have sent a second round of stimulus checks to Americans and extended the $600 dollar unemployment insurance through January. Senate Republicans refused to take up the bill for a vote, essentially letting the unemployment benefits expire on July 31, having not even revealed their own bill until July 27, amid opposition within their own party.
On Saturday, The Los Angeles Times laid out how negotiations broke down. Republicans objected to funding for things like food, water, and utility assistance; additional funding for COVID-19 testing; as well as funding for states and municipalities whose budgets were gutted by the pandemic. In terms of unemployment benefits, Democrats wanted to extend the $600 payment through the end of the year but “Senate Republicans have not acted on it,” instead floating various cuts to the benefit.
Trump, for his part, blamed Congress’ inability to reach a deal on Democrats during a press conference at his New Jersey golf club, and announced he’d be signing executive orders. There are significant questions about the legality and effectiveness of the orders, particularly one that would ostensibly provide $300 per week to unemployed Americans. Trump’s proposed payroll tax holiday would cut funding for Medicare and Social Security while possibly leaving Americans on the hook for a tax bill in 2021. The executive order on evictions may not actually do much of anything at all.
Despite the abundance of evidence Trump’s legally dubious and potentially harmful executive orders are the result of the Republican Party dragging their feet (and in some cases just flat opposed to more action) on a second relief bill, Sunday show coverage implied both parties are to blame and implored Democratic politicians to give in to GOP demands.
Put another way, the implied goal of the questioning on the Sunday shows was not what the American people need in the time of a crisis and who is standing in the way of that. Instead, lines of questioning focused on 2020 politics and when congressional negotiations came up at all, it was frequently framed as what concessions were necessary to achieve a bipartisan deal -- without any care to whether that deal would actually help the people who need it.
During the August 9 edition of CNN’s State of the Union, guest host Dana Bash spoke to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and asked “Why not get back in that room and come up with a compromise on some of these core issues?” Bash went on to say she knows Pelosi wants the best for people, but then said “at some point, you’ve got to work with the other side, right?”
During an interview with White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, NBC’s Chuck Todd glossed over Navarro’s claim that Democrats would rather tank the economy and hurt the president than work with Republicans and pass a relief bill.
ABC’s George Stephanopolous presented the negotiations as if both sides were refusing to budge during an interview with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer when he said “you say these proposals are narrow, they’re unworkable, they’re paltry. What the Republicans have said is that your trillion-dollar offer is nothing more than a budget gimmick” before asking Schumer if Democrats “will compromise more?”
During a panel discussion on the August 9 edition of NBC’s Meet the Press, MSNBC anchor Joshua Jackson called it “telling that both sides can’t can't seem to come to an agreement perhaps because of the publicity around these negotiations.” He went on to say “as we get closer to the election, unfortunately less and less is getting agreed to.”
Some mainstream news outlets also published articles Sunday about “both sides” failing to come to an agreement.
This is a continuation of the August 2 Sunday show coverage, during which Bash asked about Democrats supposedly making a “political play” and “trying to maximize” their leverage in the discussions and ABC’s Martha Raddatz said Democrats turned down short term extension before asking Pelosi “what do you say to those 30 million Americans who are now without federal unemployment help?”
This is a horrific crisis, and millions of people need help. Bipartisan platitudes are not going to cut it.