Although there is broad bipartisan agreement in Congress that additional coronavirus relief is needed, I regret that the status of delivering relief hasn’t changed a lot since May. It’s even more disappointing since lawmakers already agree on how to approach several aspects of needed relief.
As you might remember back in mid-May, the U.S. House of Representatives considered legislation deceptively packaged and promoted by Democrats as coronavirus relief. While there may have been a few worthy provisions, those items were greatly overshadowed by the unrelated-to-coronavirus policies stuffed into the more than $3 trillion package. Sadly, the substance of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s so-called HEROES Act looked more like using a crisis to advance a liberal wish list than a serious desire to help struggling Americans. That was made even more obvious by the fact that the legislation was crafted behind closed doors and without any Republican input whatsoever. Not surprisingly, that bill was never taken up by the Republican-led Senate or signed into law by President Donald Trump.
Since then, there have been scattered conversations between Speaker Pelosi and Trump Administration leaders that, at times, seemed hopeful. Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi has thus far refused to budge on both the total cost of the next relief package as well as her belief that we have to agree on everything before we can agree on anything. By contrast, the Trump Administration has shown a lot more willingness to negotiate something real. In fact, the president said himself that he would be willing to sign a bill totaling $1.5 trillion, if it didn’t have unrelated policies attached to it. Meanwhile, although many Democrats like to point fingers at the Senate for not bringing up a coronavirus relief bill of any kind, it’s worth noting that it was Senate Democrats who recently blocked consideration of one.
Considering that both chambers managed to deliver four substantial and bipartisan relief packages to the American people earlier this year, the months long delay and lack of meaningful progress on a fifth makes me wonder if Democrats actually want to reach a deal. If so, last week’s activity in the House certainly didn’t help their cause.
Instead of bringing up measures with clear support in both chambers, Speaker Pelosi opted to revisit the same misguided approach on display in May by bringing up a supposedly revamped and lighter version of the HEROES Act. Unfortunately, HEROES 2.0 still included many of the same radical and unrelated provisions that couldn’t pass on their own merit. Moreover, Republicans were entirely left out in crafting the legislation again. In fact, it was such a nonstarter that it passed by only seven votes, and 18 Democrats even voted against it this time.
The time wasted last week on a partisan bill is particularly disappointing when so many areas of bipartisan agreement already exist. Indeed, there are plenty of items that could pass both chambers separately and immediately – including a simple extension of the Paycheck Protection Program for struggling small businesses and their workers, aid to help schools reopen, additional unemployment aid and a second round of stimulus rebate checks.
As discussions continue between Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin this week, I remain hopeful for a breakthrough and that a bipartisan deal can still be reached – one that both chambers of Congress will pass and the president will sign. Indeed, it’s important for the American people that we do find agreement, and I remain ready to support such a measure.