Pressure Builds on Democrats to Pass Smaller COVID-19 Relief Package

Pressure Builds on Democrats to Pass Smaller COVID-19 Relief Package

( – COVID-19 cases across the country are growing, several states are shutting down again, and unemployment numbers are starting to swell. The reality that something must be done to help people is starting to put pressure on Democrats who refused to budge in negotiations with Republicans through the fall. Even potential president-elect Joe Biden is joining in the chorus of voices wanting something done during Congress’s lame-duck session.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) held out for a $2.2 trillion relief package for three months. However, Republicans in the Senate faced two problems with their proposal. First, the bill was laden with left-wing, special interest pork programs that had little to do with actual COVID-19 relief, and second, the GOP was hesitant to add wildly to the deficit, fearing long-term consequences to the US economy.

CARES Act Expires in December

By the end of the year, the nearly $2 trillion CARES Act passed in March expires. Along with it, the Pandemic Emergency Employment Compensation program for self-employed and gig workers goes by the wayside. Additionally, moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures also go away, creating a potential tidal wave of problems for families who need homes during the pandemic. School loan protections also disappear.

Economists Call for Direct Stimulus Payments

On Monday, November 23, over 120 economists wrote an open letter calling for immediate direct payments to Americans. In April, the IRS sent out $1,200 payments to every American to help sustain them during the worst part of the pandemic at that time. The economists stated that stimulus checks were needed to prevent people from falling into poverty, and encourage consumer spending to help businesses stay afloat.

The economists argued that nearly 50% of households experienced “serious financial trouble during the pandemic.” They say these people struggle to keep up with necessities such as food, utilities, rents, and mortgages. Additionally, they say 60% of those who returned to work are making less than they were pre-pandemic.

Democrats Face Renewed Pressure to Strike a Deal Sooner Than Later

In October, Senate Republicans proposed what they termed a “skinny” relief package. The $500 billion legislation targeted small businesses, schools, and testing. However, in recent days some GOP senators said they would accept a higher amount. Since September, President Trump said that he supported a much larger measure than the $500 billion being offered. At one point in negotiations, Republicans came up from $500 billion to $1 trillion.

Still, Pelosi and Schumer refused to budge on their $2 trillion proposal. As Republicans signal they are open to increasing the aid, cracks are starting to develop in the Democratic leadership as Biden pushes for immediate help before possibly taking office late in January. Some leaders, as well as rank and file Democrats, are advocating for passing something smaller now to get immediate help to hurting Americans and coming back in January to add more if Biden is inaugurated.

During the week of Thanksgiving, there were no “active negotiations,” according to Pelosi. However, she is signaling that there’s a good chance for a bipartisan package soon.

Don Purdum, Independent Political Analyst

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