Stumbling Toward a Deal as Controversy Grows Over Who Gets Aid
Author: Greg Valliere
April 21, 2020
STILL NOT DONE: Proponents of a $500 billion coronavirus aid bill face two enormous issues that could stall enactment for several more days: insistence on a national testing strategy, and a growing controversy over who got the initial aid — big chains or small local businesses?
THESE DISPUTES COULD delay passage until late this week as both parties haggle over details, but there’s a theme in these packages: Donald Trump isn’t sweating the details. He wants more stimulus and he will get it this month, with more coming by summer.
TRUMP IS CONVINCED THAT DEMOCRATS want to hurt him politically over the issues of testing and swabs, but it really isn’t about him. It’s about meeting standards set by Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx that stipulate when states can open up.
SOME GOVERNORS HAVE JUMPED THE GUN, so Congress will insist on $25 billion to establish a federally-funded testing component, which is very likely to be included in the final bill.
THE OTHER OBSTACLE STEMS FROM A BITTER PUSH-BACK over the initial aid to small business. Large hotel and restaurant chains gobbled up much of the aid, thanks to savvy lobbyists and the industries’ political clout, leaving thousands of small businesses and local restaurants shut out.
THERE ARE FAR MORE ANGRY small business owners than the number of protesters at raggedy anti-lockdown demonstrations. Trump asserts that the small business aid has been a great success, but it’s been a mess, thanks to antiquated computers at the overwhelmed Small Business Administration — and aid that has gone to big companies that have cut in line.
THIS NEW PACKAGE WILL CONTAIN ABOUT $300 BILLION MORE aid to small businesses, but Congress will insist on provisions that will re-define the size of businesses that will be eligible for the aid. That process could take another few days.
ONCE THIS BILL PASSES, lawmakers will flee for several weeks, but still another
bill will take shape by June. Partisanship is on the rise, and calls for $500 billion
to aid reeling state and l
ocal governments will encounter opposition from deficit
BUT MORE FISCAL AID SEEMS CERTAIN, and we don’t rule out an infrastructure component in the summer bill. Trump wants it, and he correctly says this is the time to do it, with interest rates close to zero. Lots more will be in this next bill, perhaps including some aid for the oil industry, where bankruptcies loom.
EVERYTHING HAS ITS LIMITS, and the sentiment in Washington that money is no object may begin to fade later this year; the deficit in fiscal 2020 could hit $4 trillion. Some conservatives are already alarmed, and their desire to be heard will be a factor as Congress is forced to return to Washington this week to hear objections before this latest measure finally passes.
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