Three Bills

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There are three pieces of legislation pending that Democrats are currently deciding what to do with. For all three, the tradeoff at hand is policy vs. politics. That is, is the policy valuable enough that it’s worth supporting even though it gives a Republican president a political win in an election year? Here are the three:

  • USMCA trade agreement (aka NAFTA 2.0). This one is peculiar. As policy, it’s barely different from our current NAFTA agreement. What’s more, I’m not aware of any significant Democratic constituencies that are begging for it. And yet, the Democratic leadership seems to be working hard to come up with compromise language that will allow it to pass. I’m at a loss to explain this.
  • Surprise billing. This is a bill that would prevent hospital patients from getting huge bills when it turns out that one of the doctors who wandered through their room wasn’t part of their insurance network—even though the hospital itself is. This would be a win for Trump, but it’s also something that would truly help a lot of people. I can see Democrats deciding that it was worth supporting even if it helps Trump.
  • Space Force. Democrats are apparently willing to support creation of Trump’s Space Force in return for parental leave for federal workers. This one also leaves me shaking my head. On the one hand, Space Force strikes me as bad policy. Nobody in the military community seems to think much of it, and I can also envision it being the foundation of some pretty sketchy activities that might not pass muster in the more traditional service branches. On the other hand, parental leave for federal workers is not only small potatoes, but could be explicitly bad for Democrats. There are lots of Trumpish-leaning voters who believe that federal workers are coddled, and a new benefit just for them might be greeted pretty coldly. Potentially, then, it’s both bad policy and bad politics.

I wonder what I’m missing here? It sure seems as though congressional Democrats aren’t playing the political game very astutely.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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