• Two events that almost never happen simultaneously in the US are conspiring together to all but destroy any chance of Congress passing a new stimulus bill that appropriates funding for new stimulus checks.
  • Those two events are a highly contentious presidential election that may not even be settled on Election Day, because of such issues as mail-in voting. And the other is the tough battle looming to fill the seat on the Supreme Court bench vacated by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away a few days ago.
  • There’s always a chance a stimulus bill could end up materializing. If anything, 2020 has proven that if the impossible or improbable can happen, it will. However, most people aren’t holding their breath anymore for a new bill.

For a while now, it’s looked like there might, just might, be a razor-thin chance that Congress could somehow eke out the passage of a new stimulus bill. Something that it was able to do, remember, back in March at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic with the $2.2 trillion CARES Act but which has for some reason proven near-impossible in the six months since then.

The new impediment that’s basically taken a sledgehammer to what little chance remained of a bill’s passage, smashing it into such fine-grained pieces that they’ve now been all but scattered and lost on the wind? If you’ve been paying attention to the news since, oh, about Friday, you already know the answer: It’s because the US is about to live through two of the most highly charged political events simultaneously, even though they pretty much never happen together.

The presidential election campaign, which is going to kick into an even higher gear one week from today with the first debate set to take place in Cleveland, is one reason. This is expected to be one of the closest and perhaps even among the most contentious presidential elections in US history, given that mail-in voting may prevent us from knowing the outcome for days after the fact. So you can sort of imagine how this would serve to preclude a feeling of comity and bipartisanship in the nation’s capitol — the critical ingredients for reaching an accord on new coronavirus relief.

As if that wasn’t enough to contend with, President Trump is pressing forward with a nomination this weekend for a successor to fill the seat on the Supreme Court bench vacated by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She passed away a few days ago at age 87 after complications related to cancer, and based on public assurances from various members of the GOP-controlled Senate (which confirms presidential appointments to the high court) it would seem Republicans now have the votes they need to get a nominee confirmed before the November election.

Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney had been regarded as something of a question mark here and a potential holdout who wouldn’t necessarily stand with the president and his party in rushing through a nominee. However, Romney released the following statement on Tuesday morning:

“The historical precedent of election year nominations is that the Senate generally does not confirm an opposing party’s nominee but does confirm a nominee of its own. The Constitution gives the president the power to nominate and the Senate the authority to provide advice and consent on Supreme Court nominees. Accordingly, I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the president’s nominee. If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications.”

Unsurprisingly, anger from Democrats has reached a fever pitch over this issue, which is helping them raise recording amounts of funding. Which is yet another reminder, if one was even needed, that this is not exactly the kind of legislative environment conducive to getting big and hard things done — like a new stimulus bill, which would have a massive price tag and need to include benefits like new stimulus checks to help Americans deal with the ongoing financial damage related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.