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This will all but guarantee we don’t get a new stimulus bill anytime soon

Published Sep 4th, 2020 3:51PM EDT
New stimulus bill
Image: Andy Dean/Adobe

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  • One of the reason the Senate has yet to pass a new stimulus bill as a complement to the new coronavirus relief package the House passed back in May is because the Senate is, arguably, at war with itself.
  • The GOP-controlled body includes Republicans who want to pass something — anything, really — and others who mostly care about keeping the price tag as low as possible.
  • That’s reportedly leading the Republicans to consider voting on a so-called “skinny” stimulus package that doesn’t include, for example, funding for new stimulus checks.

To understand why the passage of a new stimulus bill in Congress has been such a Herculean challenge in recent weeks, in spite of how desperately a new one is needed to confront the ongoing economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s helpful to rethink one of the fundamental truths that most of us understand about the legislative branch of the federal government. Namely, there are not two parties that dominate Congress — it’s more helpful to imagine that there’s actually at least three, and it might even be correct to think of four parties with representatives filling both the upper and lower chambers.

There are Democrats and Republicans, yes. But within the Republican conference itself in the Senate, for example, there are also two sides really at war with each other that have prevented the GOP-controlled body from passing a new stimulus bill up to this point. There is a chunk of Republicans in the Senate that wants to vote for the kind of stimulus package most Americans want to see right now, one that’s loaded with benefits like new stimulus checks. But there’s also a GOP faction that cares more about deficits and spending less on social warfare and wants whatever new stimulus bill emerges, if one even does, to come with the lowest price tag possible. On the Democratic side, meanwhile, there are pragmatists as well as progressives who are prone to give no quarter on issues they care about.

According to The Hill, Senate Majority Leader and Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell may be planning to hold a vote on a so-called “skinny” stimulus package. One that will reportedly fall in the range of $500 billion to $700 billion (compared to the multi-trillion-dollar package that Democrats want to pass). The reason that dollar amount is so much lower — compared to even the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that both chambers of Congress agreed to back at the end of March, when funding for the first round of stimulus checks was included — is the bill it would apparently only include a bare-bones list of benefits this time around. More aid for unemployed workers, for example, expanded funding for coronavirus testing, money to help colleges and schools deal with distance-learning needs, and money for a new round of loans to small businesses.

Here’s the thing though, which illustrates just what a mess Congress is in right now — sources have told The Hill that McConnell might not even have the votes to pass this “skinny” bill, either. Which, even if he did, would come under fire from Democrats who want to go as big as possible on a new stimulus bill right now.

There’s always a chance that Senators could surprise us in the coming days and prepare a comprehensive stimulus package as a complement to the one the House passed back in May. Our bet, however, is that it’s only going to get harder to do so the closer we get to Election Day in November, when both sides dig in even deeper than they already are. Which is why we’re not expecting a new stimulus bill, or new stimulus checks, anytime soon, unfortunately.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.