- The Senate has been dithering instead of passing a new stimulus bill, even as millions of Americans continue to suffer the painful financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Now, it seems the prospect of an upcoming recess has inspired senators to race to find common ground as fast as possible.
- The new stimulus bill is expected to include, among other things, funding to support a new wave of direct payments of at least $1,200 to most Americans.
Apparently, nothing inspires a race to find common ground and overcome the divide that separates the two major political parties warring over a new stimulus bill than the clock running out and a recess fast approaching.
The Senate is currently scheduled to break for recess at the end of this week, on August 7. And wouldn’t you know it, but that’s inspired senators to decide they want to move heaven and earth in order to overcome their disagreements over the new stimulus bill pending in the chamber, so that they can head out for their recess on time while also having given the House of Representatives a bill it can work on and move swiftly to President Trump’s desk so that its benefits can start making their way to hard-hit Americans. Various news accounts emerged Tuesday showing that negotiators from both sides are hopeful they can strike a deal by the end of this week, which can’t come soon enough for the millions of Americans still suffering the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Part of the urgency here has been over the fact that Congress let enhanced unemployment aid lapse, as a stalemate continued over a new stimulus bill. It’s been almost two weeks since the last payment was sent out in 49 states under the terms of that expanded jobless aid (which provided an extra $600/week), and it’s been several days since that benefit officially expired.
Democrats had drawn a line in the sand over this issue, reportedly refusing to accept anything less than a re-upping of the jobless aid at that same level. Republicans countered that paying the unemployed an extra $2,400/month was tantamount to a new salary that disincentivized seeking a new job. Nevertheless, Kentucky Republican and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that he’s “prepared to support” federal unemployment benefits being brought back at that $600/week level — which removes a major obstacle standing in the way of the new stimulus bill’s passage.
It’s a given, meanwhile, that there will also be funding in the bill to support a new wave of stimulus checks of at least $1,200 for most Americans. But there are still at least two other big hurdles to clear before the passage of a bill is all but assured. One of them is aid to states that are facing huge budget shortfalls as a result of costs associated with the coronavirus. A GOP attack line has been that they don’t want to be seen as “bailing out” states that mismanaged themselves to get to this point.
Another hurdle is over a liability shield for businesses. The idea is to prevent a wave of lawsuits stemming from, say, employees returning to work and catching the coronavirus in the process. According to Forbes, Republicans want to ensure that “a plaintiff would have to show that a defendant was ‘grossly negligent or engaged in willful misconduct’ while also violating state and local public health guidelines at the time.”