A National Embarrassment as Congress Stalls on Virus Relief Bill
December 11, 2020
THE FACTS ARE OBVIOUS: Unemployment claims are surging, there are long lines for food, evictions are imminent, a wide range of relief provisions will expire at the
end of this month, small businesses are failing, a recession looms in the first quarter, and Covid fatalities are soaring — headed to nearly 4,000 per day by Christmas.
YET CONGRESS CAN’T GET ITS ACT TOGETHER as a virus relief bill — any bill — has bogged down, with no prospect of an agreement for several more days. It’s a national embarrassment.
NOT ONLY HAS A VIRUS relief package stalled, the vehicle for such a measure — the $1.4 trillion 2021 budget bill — also may stall because just one senator, Rand Paul, may tie Congress into knots next week with a filibuster. Still another extension, past the Dec. 18 deadline, may be necessary.
THERE ARE DOZENS OF MODERATES who are anxious to pass a bipartisan bill, and there are persuasive arguments on both sides. No need to re-hash differences on liability relief or aid to state and local governments (which soon will have to lay off thousands of workers). And there’s a case to be made for stimulus checks as opposed to unemployment benefits.
THERE’S NO NEED TO RE-VISIT the arguments about Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi, both unwilling to bend; they’re both villains in this narrative. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has been a relatively honest broker, but his boss is far more concerned about a ridiculous election plea to the Supreme Court which is certain to fail.
THE DEBATE ON A RELIEF BILL will drag on, surely through late next week and perhaps past Christmas. Fatalities will soar and food lines will lengthen, as Congress dithers — seemingly oblivious to the suffering.
VACCINES ARE COMING: Perhaps by April or May the country will have some degree of herd immunity; the stock market has priced in a booming economy by summer. But we have to get from here to there, and this will be a very difficult winter if there’s no relief bill. We still expect a deal by Christmas, but prospects have slipped — it’s a national embarrassment.
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