Republicans and Democrats have been stalling over the framework of another Covid-19 relief bill for months now. House Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion package on October 2, the administration countered this proposal with a $1.6 trillion relief bill, but Pelosi deemed it inadequate. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he would raise the government’s financial ceiling for a stimulus package above the now $1.8 trillion being proposed.
Speaking for Senate Republicans, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans are aiming for a highly targeted approach to stimulus relief and will vote on a bill next Monday which offers funding for the small-business rescue program, money for schools, liability protections for businesses, and boosted unemployment benefits at $400 per week; direct payments of up to $1,200 for adults, $1,000 for children; and additional funding for state and local governments.
The updated Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act) passed by Democrats, in contrast, is a slimmed-down version of the one they passed in May. That version was not taken up by the Senate due to the $3.4 trillion cost. The new version comes in at $2.2 trillion, with some of the same features, critics say it caters to a “wish list” of Democrat projects.
For example, Section 107, page 1866 of the bill rewrites election law, barring voter ID requirements, forcing states to count absentee ballots that arrive as late as 10 days after Election Day, and imposing same-day voter registration everywhere. At the moment this is only legal in 21 states.
As well, the Heroes Act will allocate school districts $225 billion, but only $5 billion, translating to 2%, would go to making schools safer by improving air quality or installing sinks and other hygiene upgrades. The remaining 98% is a protection plan for the teacher’s unions.
$120 billion is given in grants for restaurants. The money is coupled with conditions, and perhaps unconstitutional provisions that establish preferences for minority- and women-owned businesses. Covid-19 does not discriminate in who it affects.
Informing her Democratic colleagues of the administration’s new offer, Pelosi wrote in her weekly letter that the administration’s proposal lacked a “strategic plan to crush the virus” and gave President Trump too much power in determining how the funds were spent. “This proposal amounted to one step forward, two steps back,” she said. Lack of funding for testing was a big obstacle in negotiations.
Earlier though Steve Mnuchin said that the testing issue was “getting overblown,” as the administration had agreed to allocate $178 billion overall for health and $75 billion for contact tracing and testing. He said the problem was language around testing, and that when he speaks to Pelosi, he intended to tell her “that we’re not going to let the testing issue stand in the way. We’ll fundamentally agree with their testing language subject to some minor issues.” It was reported later Thursday that Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have now agreed on Democrats’ language for a national strategic testing plan for the coronavirus with “minor” edits.
Since this package is separate from the Heroes Act, it is assumed the problematic provisions with that bill remain in that bill, and not the new agreement. Adding his opinion, President Trump said, “[Pelosi] doesn’t want to give anything. She thinks it helps her with the election, and I don’t think so. I think it hurts her with the election because everyone knows she’s holding it up. We’re not holding it up. She’s holding it up. I think there’s a chance (of agreement) because I think there’s a lot of pressure on Pelosi.” He added, “They have a lot of sane people in the Democrat Party. And I really think they’ve got a lot of pressure on them to do something. The Republicans are willing to do it. I’d like to see more money because it comes back. It’s going to come back anyway,” referring to the money ultimately coming back into the economy.
When Democrats and Republicans failed to agree in August, President Trump signed four executive measures to provide relief to families still hurt the pandemic-stricken economy, including temporarily extending supplemental jobless aid at $300 a week. This is about to expire, and lifelines that propped up the economy in the early weeks of the pandemic — like the $670 billion Paycheck Protection Program, a one-time $1,200 stimulus check, and sweetened unemployment benefits have run out too.
Mnuchin expects that President Trump will discuss the matter with Senate Majority Leader McConnell should an agreement on a stimulus package be reached.
Economists and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell have encouraged Congress to provide the economy with more financial support. Echoing the President’s sentiment, Jerome Powell said “even if policy actions ultimately prove to be greater than needed, they will not go to waste,” Powell said in a speech to the National Association for Business Economics. “The recovery will be stronger and move faster if monetary policy and fiscal policy continue to work side by side to provide support to the economy until it is clearly out of the woods,” Powell said the economic rebound that began in May was buoyed in large part by the $2.2 trillion aid package that Congress passed at the end of March.
Carol King received a first-class BA (honors) in History and Politics from Stirling University, along with an exceptional commendation for a study on US public opinion and Foreign Policy. She also completed a year of study at University of London before taking up a Graduate Proctor Fellowship at Princeton University. She further completed a MPhil in American Politics at Dundee University. Aspiring to be a writer/commentator on American politics, she now writes for UncoverDC.