The Bargain

August 2, 2020

by Steve Stofka

Deep below the U.S. Capitol Building, several men stand guard outside a door. Inside the room are House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. With each of them is an aide.

“If you can arrange a voice vote to impeach on Monday, my members can deliver the needed two-thirds majority to convict,” the Senator says. “Vice-President Pence will serve out the term. Utah Senator Mitt Romney has agreed to accept the party’s nomination this August.”

Ms. Pelosi eyes McConnell warily. “We like our chances against Trump. Romney’s a moderate that a lot of Republican voters – maybe even some Democratic voters – will welcome. I need more.”

McConnell clears his throat. “I’ll reduce the liability protections for big businesses, but my members will not budge on lawsuit protections for smaller businesses. This is something your own members can get behind. Who doesn’t like small business in America?”

Pelosi motions to her aide who hands her a summary of the second relief bill that the House passed in May. She glances at it. McConnell fights the smile that tugs at the left corner of his mouth. Pelosi is not fooling him. The paper is a sham. She’s got her demands memorized.

“Revoke the SALT provision in the tax bill,” Pelosi says. McConnell shakes his head. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic, for God’s sake, Mitch. We can argue it out in the next Congress. One year of relief. One year only.”

“You agree to the one trillion package we passed this week,” McConnell says.

“We passed a three trillion dollar bill back in May and your members and the White House couldn’t agree on how much the American people should suffer,” Pelosi accuses him.

“Unlike your coalition, Nancy, ours comes from a lot of diverse areas from all over the country,” McConnell argues. “They have a wide range of concerns and perspectives.”

“White concerns, white perspectives,” Pelosi shoots back. “I need more help for state and local governments.”

“States like Illinois and New Jersey have underfunded their public pension plans for years,” McConnell says. “We’re not using the Covid crisis to bail out corrupt state politicians with no fiscal discipline.”

“We’ll set up a joint oversight committee to monitor how the states and cities spend the money,” Pelosi offers.

“Money is fungible,” McConnell says. “No way to properly monitor it. I’ve got too many members from small states who have struggled for years to attract good talent for city and state government. They couldn’t offer fancy pension packages. They were responsible. Their pension funds are not badly underfunded like Illinois. They just won’t go for it.”

“I’ll take SALT off the table and meet you two-thirds of the way on aid to the states and cities. You’ll look like a tough negotiator, but I’ll have to go back to my members and tell them that I gave away $1.5 trillion in aid that they voted for in May. You want to build fighter jets that the Air Force doesn’t want and yet you’re taking money away from students and teachers? That will be a good campaign ad this fall.”

“Not negotiable, Nancy. My members will take their chances with Trump if I give in on the military aid. Too many communities depend on that production. I’ll go halfway on aid to state and local governments.”

Pelosi turns to her aide. “How much is the final package?” McConnell knows that she has calculated exactly what the figure is. The aide says $1.6 trillion. Pelosi holds out her hand and they shake. “I’ll make the announcement at 9 A.M. on Monday.” She and the aide leave the room.

“Stop, stop, stop,” my wife says as she shakes me awake. “You’re yelling ‘you won’t believe it!’ over and over.”

It’s still dark out but the first half-light of early dawn is in the sky. Boy, it seemed so real. I sit up.

“This is not like you,” she says. “What won’t I believe?”

I give her a hug. “Never mind. Sorry I woke you.” I lay down and go back to sleep.

////////////////////////////

Photo by Austin Kehmeier on Unsplash

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