Democrats and Republicans in Congress both claim they want to pass a new federal stimulus bill before President-elect Joe Biden takes office Jan. 20. The only question is whether lawmakers can find the political will to compromise on a relief package that is desperately needed as coronavirus cases surge nationwide.
With the Senate and the House of Representatives back in session for the final days of the 116th Congress (new members will be sworn in Jan. 3), it would seem that both parties would be motivated to find common ground on a relief package. But the issues that have stalled a stimulus bill previously still remain: the size and scope of the package, and whether most Americans will receive a second round of stimulus checks.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and fellow Democrats have been pushing for passage of their $2.2 trillion Heroes Act that includes additional unemployment benefits for millions of Americans as well as a second stimulus check of $1,200.
Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, want something much smaller, in the range of about $500 million.
Where is President Donald Trump in all of this? It’s hard to say. Prior to the election he suggested a total spending plan of $1.9 trillion — remarkably close to the Democrats’ proposal — but has since backed off. Two weeks ago, he tweeted that a bill should be passed, but said only that it should be “big” and “focused.”
It’s time for the real leaders to step forward and work on a compromise package because the alarming rise in coronavirus cases presents another threat to the already skittish economy. If more restrictions and limitations are enacted to slow the spread of the virus — as has already happened in many states — it could mean even more job losses and another rise in the unemployment rate that stood at 6.9% at the end of October.
Compromise has taken on a negative connotation in politics over the years as both parties have dug in, often on ideological grounds. But compromise is not only necessary, it has been a mainstay of the American political process since the founding of the republic. Great leaders through the years have long recognized the need to compromise as a way to get things done — and that is what’s needed now.
There’s a big gap between the $2.2 trillion Democratic proposal and the $500 million suggested by Republicans. That leaves plenty of room for compromise that would provide much-needed assistance to the nearly 12 million Americans who are out of work and the numerous industries that are teetering on the financial edge.
While some may argue that the promising results of COVID-19 vaccines means the end is near and a big relief package is unnecessary, the reality is that most Americans won’t be able to get an approved vaccine for another six months or longer. Assistance is needed now.
Both sides have points on which they agree: enhanced unemployment benefits, extending the Paycheck Protection Program and aid for the airline industry. A second stimulus check even has some bipartisan support.
It’s time to put aside politics and use the power of compromise to come up with a relief package for Americans in need.
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