After a grueling weekend of negotiations followed by three days of combatting fanciful democratic demands to restructure the emergency relief bill to address environmental issues, the Senate arrived at bipartisan legislation that satisfied both parties and the $2 trillion bill was finally passed late last night.
The massive $2 trillion stimulus deal is the largest rescue package in American history. It will give cash payments directly to U.S. adults who earn less than $75,000 individually or $150,000 if married. The immediate stimulus check for individuals will be no more than $1,200; married couples $2,400, and payments will increase $500 per child.
Unemployment benefits will include an additional $600 per week tacked onto what the individual’s state will already provide.
The package includes a fund of $350 billion earmarked for small businesses. The fund is intended to supplement payroll and prevent companies from laying off employees in response to the pandemic.
The airline industry will receive $10 billion in immediate relief; $50 billion in loans and grants; $8 billion to aid cargo carriers; and another $17 billion for private businesses functioning under the core effort of maintaining national security.
Healthcare organizations will receive $240 billion in overall healthcare relief; $75 billion allocated for hospitals; $20 billion for veteran-centered healthcare facilities; $20 billion for public transportation across the country, and $4.5 billion for the CDC.
Finally, the stimulus package will provide $150 billion in immediate aid to state and local governments in support of their continued fight against the pandemic.
In addition to aiding citizens, small business, and major corporations, the bill provides myriad assistance and tax relief for home owners, student loan borrowers, and even the arts—too many components to name in the span of this article.
“Our nation obviously is going through a kind of crisis that is totally unprecedented in living memory,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) prior to the vote.
The bill, having been passed by the Senate, has been sent to the House where it awaits review and approval. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) indicated that she doesn’t foresee the bill being held up any longer, and President Trump has already said he intends to sign it immediately as soon as it reaches his desk.
There were many revisions to the legislation since last week, and while Americans can be collectively relieved that an immediate plan of economic action has almost been put into motion, it might be worth it to examine the politics behind the initial holdup before the opportunity to investigate passes discerning Americans by at whiplash speed.
Excluding Pelosi’s attempt to revive the most idealistic bullet points of the Green New Deal and cram them into the stimulus package as if this was an appropriate time to address America’s carbon footprint and save the environment, the primary issue that lawmakers couldn’t come to bipartisan agreement on was the amount, allocation, and duration of unemployment benefits.
The main issue with the original bill that was presented on Monday was that it heightened the risk of incentivizing individuals against returning to work because those individuals could receive more money for not working than for maintaining their jobs. The bill was supposed to cap the unemployment benefits an individual could receive at the amount of their salary to safeguard against Americans receiving more than their salaries. This happens when the process of putting legislation together is rushed. Republicans believed—and still do—that extending massive relief funds to corporations would prevent them from laying employees off, but democrats wanted to see structured into the bill more guidelines and stipulations regarding how corporations can and cannot use their relief money.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was one of them, but his threat to hold up the vote was, first and foremost, a tactic to dissuade republican senators from fixing the glaring unemployment insurance benefit error mentioned above.
“Unless Republican Senators drop their objections to the coronavirus legislation, I am prepared to put a hold on this bill until stronger conditions are imposed on the $500 billion corporate welfare fund,” Sanders declared in retaliation against Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Ben Sasse’s (R-NE) threat to delay the bill. In a nutshell, Sanders’ argument was, don’t touch unemployment benefits and he won’t dig his heels in and insist that detailed guidelines be included on corporate spending.
If America has learned anything battling the spread of the novel coronavirus within the last month, it’s that time is of the essence. Citizens didn’t have to wait for their state governors to order them to lock down, a huge portion of the population chose to do so voluntarily, and democrats were definitely among the most vocal criticizing the president for not doing more sooner to slow the spread so that our healthcare system wouldn’t become overwhelmed once “the curve” peaks.
But urgency didn’t describe Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s attitude when she responded to the Senate’s original bill. Considering the grandstanding that has come—and continues to come—from the democratic party, it’s fair to wonder if they agree that hospitals are in dire need of immediate funding, medical supplies, and ventilators. On the one hand, democrats have behaved as though the sky is metaphorically falling on our healthcare system and lives will be lost if an economic stimulus package isn’t disbursed to the American people right away. But on the other hand, they’re willing to grandstand, drag negotiations outs, and play hardball in order to see certain idealistic efforts represented in the legislation.
Since Monday afternoon, it hasn’t seemed like democrats have been in any rush to pass the bill. In fact, there were a few nail-biting days where their actions suggested that perhaps they would rather have no bill than a bill that doesn’t include their wish list. So, where has the American economy and the effort to save jobs and lives really fit into their agenda?
The coronavirus economic stimulus relief package is moving forward and cash should soon hit Americans’ wallets, but exercising a healthy degree of skepticism is also warranted. If democrats in the House cannot commit to their own rhetoric that the nation is in a state of economic crisis and instead act is though now is an opportune time to push their agenda no matter how long it takes, then perhaps Americans should also downgrade the pandemic, get back to work, and return to normal life.