- Congress was supposed to have passed a new stimulus bill by now to help offset some of the financial pain the US is confronted with as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
- However, the GOP-controlled Senate has yet to produce a new companion bill after the Democratic-led House passed a new stimulus bill of its own back in May.
- One of the sticking points appears to be a disagreement between the two parties over how much jobless aid to approve for people newly out of work as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
We can argue about the reasons why all we want, but one thing is unquestionably clear: Most Americans should have gotten a new stimulus check by now, one of the myriad benefits that were supposed to be in the massive new stimulus bill that Congress was on track to pass weeks ago to stop some of the financial bleeding associated with the coronavirus pandemic. The fact that none of those things happened, however, is not merely a damning commentary on the legislative branch of the federal government:
It’s also a failure that exists in a kind of present-perfect state. Which is to say, Congress failed and is each day continuing to fail, since every day that passes seems to put us no closer to an agreement over a new coronavirus relief package. And one thing that’s coming into clearer focus is the narrow squabble over one particular benefit that may be a reason why passage of the whole thing is still being held up.
Democrats seem to have drawn a bright red line and are digging in their heels over Republicans’ reluctance to approve another generous round of unemployment aid to help people newly laid off from jobs as a result of the devastation wreaked by the pandemic.
As economics correspondent Heather Long of The Washington Post has noted in the paper, “Republicans say $600 is so high that people are opting to stay home and collect unemployment instead of going back to work. Democrats say that there aren’t nearly enough jobs for everyone who is unemployed and that it’s better to keep families out of poverty and boost the economy by providing plenty of financial support.”
This flap over whether and how much aid to provide the tens of millions of Americans newly out of work amid the pandemic appears to be one of the sticking points at the heart of why Congress still hasn’t reached an accord on a new relief package (the House has already passed its new version, the HEROES Act, which has languished in the Senate, where no progress has been made on a companion bill called the HEALS Act).
Back at the end of March, when the coronavirus outbreak was erupting in full force around the US, Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which included such benefits as the first round of stimulus checks. Similarly, Democrats this time around want a new stimulus bill to have a price tag of around $2.2 trillion — equivalent to about 10% of the US GDP.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are putting a greater emphasis on how much everything costs. The GOP stance, at least for now, is that the final package shouldn’t cost more than $1.3 trillion.