Congressional leaders from both parties are continuing to feel the pressure from their members to get some kind of pandemic relief money in Americans’ hands before the end of the year. The latest is a proposal from both parties and both the House and Senate to provide $908 billion in coronavirus relief funds.
What makes such a bill even more essential is the current lockdown craziness from mayors and governors that threatens to push the U.S. economy over the edge into another recession. The bill — about a third of what Democrats passed in the House and less than half of what Donald Trump said he would agree to — would provide extended unemployment benefits, more small business loans, and money for state and local governments.
The funds, according to senators, would run through the first quarter of 2021 in an effort to provide states and businesses a bridge to get through what health experts are predicting will be a brutal winter. Though the stock market has hit record highs, the spread of the coronavirus has devastated small businesses and killed more than 268,000 people in the U.S., according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
“It’s been said, this is not what everybody would wish. People are going to look at these buckets and they’re going to say, ‘Well, my bucket isn’t there,’ or ‘My bucket is only half full.’ Well, this is… emergency relief. This is designed to get us through this next quarter,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
It’s the same tune, just a different orchestra. What Murkowski and her well-meaning colleagues want is something to hold people over until the Democrats really start operating. In this case, while the Senate races in Georgia remain important, Biden should be able to pick off at least a half dozen Republican Senators to get a more massive coronavirus relief package passed early next year.
“It’s not gonna make everybody happy but there’s been an enormous amount of work done,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), adding that it would be “stupidity on steroids” to leave for the year without passing more assistance.
For the proposal to go anywhere, it would need to get buy-in from leadership in both parties and both chambers. Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are expected to talk about coronavirus relief on Tuesday for the first time since October.
Even if Pelosi and House Democrats buy into the short-term relief idea, I don’t think Donald Trump is concerned about anything right now except pursuing his legal claims that the election was stolen from him. That makes getting Trump to sign off on a bill extremely problematic.
Everyone — Democrats and Republicans — agrees that pandemic relief is absolutely essential. But Congress is already preoccupied with trying to fund the government before the December 11 deadline. It’s doubtful that anyone in Congress is going to focus on pandemic relief until the government is fully funded. And with the House ready to adjourn for the year next week, it’s not likely that either side wants to rush a bill to the floor without most members having their say.