The clock keeps ticking. The sun keeps inching from east to west and peeping up again each morning above the horizon. Donald Trump moves his mouth and lies come out. People still get sick with COVID-19. More die. The economy stalls. And politicians say and do nothing. Mostly.
The election came and went. Trump keeps saying he won when almost every living soul on the planet knows he did not. Joe Biden appears wholly normal, showing off the boot he is wearing on his hair-line fractured foot. No need for a doc to gush about what bigly strong bones he has.
Meanwhile millions of Americans still face eviction from the homes and apartments they can't pay for because they haven't had regular paychecks in nearly a year thanks to a pandemic that is really just getting warmed up as it ravages our economy, schools and lives. All the while, long-lensed cameras record Trump playing golf, seemingly oblivious to those miseries. He seems even unmindful of federal judges unsealing court documents that tell of pay-to-play presidential pardon schemes.
It's just business as usual in the swamp Donald didn't drain, but, instead happily waded into chin deep.
But finally last week something clicked with nine or 10 senators and representatives in Congress — some of whom had just escaped being voted out of office by the skin of their teeth.
Something clicked and these Republicans and Democrats came together and proposed a $908 billion stimulus proposal to help Americans facing homelessness instead of another golf tee.
The framework of the proposal would provide a four-month extension of $300-per-week unemployment benefits (total cost: $180 billion); another round of aid to small businesses ($288 billion); funds for state, local and tribal governments ($160 billion); schools ($82 billion); health care and vaccines ($51 billion combined).
The Washington Post writes of it: "One can quibble about the total amount of the bill, which seems calculated to placate Republicans averse to exceeding the $1 trillion mark, even if a higher figure would probably do more good, as Democrats have maintained."
Democrats have wanted $2 trillion. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to budge from his maximum $500 billion figure.
But quibbles aside, it is better than nothing, which is what the 10 million who remain jobless, the 26 million facing food insecurity, and the 30 million looking at losing their homes are getting right now.
McConnell immediately labeled it a non-starter.
But he's wrong.
It is a starter. Politically, the new proposal shows the way to yes for negotiators — think Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California.
Most importantly it adds pressure on them to get there.
Did we mention that Pelosi and McConnell have not held talks on a relief bill since the 2020 election? At least Mnuchin shows up.
But McConnell last week told reporters he wants to pass what he called a "targeted relief bill" that Trump would sign, and he planned to offer potential solutions to GOP senators and get their feedback.
GOP senators. Dems need not apply. Nor the bipartisan group that ponied up this proposal: Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Independent Sen. Augus King of Maine. House members including Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Republican Rep. Tom Reed of New York, leaders of the Problem Solvers Caucus, also were involved.
"We just don't have time to waste time," McConnell said of the $908 billion plan put together by those bipartisan members of the GOP-controlled Senate and Democratic-held House.
Warner called the new relief plan an "interim package" to provide support until President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January.
"If there's one thing I'm hearing uniformly it's: 'Congress, do not leave town for the holidays leaving the country and the economy adrift with all these initial CARES [Act] programs running out,'" Warner told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Tuesday.
McConnell had another idea. He told reporters that a must-pass spending bill and pandemic relief provisions would "all likely come in one package."
Translation: The clock will keep ticking on Washington gridlock right up until Congress needs to approve funding legislation by Dec. 11 to avoid a government shutdown.
Yeah. You read that right. A government shutdown.
Like we don't already have one.