- Congressional leaders and President Trump have been unable to reach an agreement on a new coronavirus stimulus bill that includes funding for a second stimulus check.
- A bill had been negotiated for weeks among Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, but talks collapsed at the end of last week.
- President Trump signed a flurry of executive orders in recent days that try to take unilateral action on some of what would have been in a stimulus bill.
A new coronavirus relief package was supposed to have gotten congressional approval by now, a legislative package that would have included an assortment of much-needed benefits like a second stimulus check for most Americans to try and give a sorely needed boost to the economy. Instead, talks collapsed in the Senate leading into the weekend, President Trump signed a flurry of executive orders that ostensibly approve various pieces of what would have been in a stimulus bill, and on Monday he thumbed his nose at House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — “Where have they been for the last 4 weeks,” he asked rhetorically in his tweet.
It all sort of calls to mind Mercutio’s dying curse levied against both the Montagues and Capulets (“A plague on both your houses!”), in light of the fact that the never-ending war between both parties has resulted in a second stimulus check of at least $1,200 for Americans hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic being but the latest casualty of the perennial dysfunction in the nation’s capital.
Trump’s Monday morning tweet seemed to revel in the gridlock, and in his idealization of himself as the problem-solver (minus, of course, actually solving the problem having to do with a second stimulus check).
So now Schumer and Pelosi want to meet to make a deal. Amazing how it all works, isn’t it. Where have they been for the last 4 weeks when they were “hardliners”, and only wanted BAILOUT MONEY for Democrat run states and cities that are failing badly? They know my phone number!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2020
His executive orders over the weekend included a payroll tax cut, as well as the provision of an extra $400/week in unemployment benefits. The orders, however, were rushed and arguably raised more questions than answers.
As noted by MarketWatch, for example, the money for the extra weekly federal unemployment aid would come from disaster relief funds: “Cash-strapped states would be required to chip in $100 of the extra benefit. The program could last just four weeks before it runs out of money.”
Ernie Tedeschi, a former Treasury Department economist, was among the experts and talking heads who took to Twitter over the weekend to explain some of the impracticality associated with Trump’s orders.
My quick read is: workers would get an extra $400/week above base/ PUA, but only $300 of that would be federal. States would have to kick in $100 over and above their regular benefits.
— Ernie Tedeschi (@ernietedeschi) August 8, 2020
Meanwhile, that no second stimulus check money has actually been approved yet is downright shocking, for reasons that include the fact that this is such low-hanging legislative fruit. There’s bipartisan support in Congress for the new checks, and President Trump himself not only promised that they’d be coming soon but that the new checks might even be bigger than what Americans got last time around.
Needless to say, the need is still there, it’s acute, and the time to act is now. As a reminder, another 1.2 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits for the first time for the week ending August 1 on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the US Dept. of Labor. A trend that’s not likely to be reversed anytime soon.