Stimulus Talks Gain Momentum After President’s Coronavirus Diagnosis
Democrats and Republicans urgently attempt to find common ground in new stimulus package talks
On Friday, October 2, 2020, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she believed that a stimulus package deal could happen soon. Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agreed to continue their talks through the weekend. The hope is that a breakthrough with the talks might occur some time by the middle of the upcoming week.
Speaker Pelosi stated in a letter to Democrats that they’re “working quickly to facilitate an agreement.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also seemed hesitantly optimistic by mentioning at an event that he had seen the talks speed up and believed that they were closer to an “outcome.” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told lawmakers that they should be ready to return to Washington, D.C. with less than a day’s notice for a new stimulus package vote.
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A stimulus package deal benefits both parties in different ways before a presidential election: Democrats, who have been approving hefty stimulus measures in the House since July that the Republican-led Senate keeps blocking, can say that they finally succeeded in convincing the GOP that extensive financial aid is necessary. Republicans can use the deal to try to counteract negative media stories about the President and GOP that have made them look like they’ve been mishandling the pandemic.
The News That Renewed Talks
In the last month, President Trump was hit hard several times by bad press. In Bob Woodward’s book, “Rage,” he revealed that the President knew about the true dangers of the virus, including that it was airborne, several weeks before pushing the public to take it seriously. Trump told Woodward that he purposely downplayed the potential toll of the virus in an attempt to stop panic. He admitted in February that he knew that the virus was “deadly stuff.” He also didn’t truly believe that he would ever catch it and repeatedly argued that it “affects virtually nobody.”
After Tuesday night’s presidential election debate, President Trump was portrayed by debate experts and media outlets as a bully and unprofessional for breaking debate rules. By Thursday, news outlets and the public were focused on Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s book “Melania & Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship With the First Lady” after CNN received secret audio recordings from Wolkoff. During Wolkoff’s interactions with the First Lady, Mrs. Trump criticized people who complained about immigrant family separations, discredited the state of camp conditions and complained about her role as First Lady while performing her job of arranging Christmas decorations for the White House.
Additionally, the Democrat-led House passed a new Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act revision deal in which they brought down the stimulus package financial aid from $3.4 trillion to $2.2 trillion dollars in the hope of attracting Republicans to it. Although unlikely to pass in the Republican-led Senate, the House actions showed that Democrats have been and continue to push for a larger stimulus package than the Republican’s last bill, which only allowed for $650 billion.
The public also learned on Thursday that Hope Hicks, a close aide to President Trump, had tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday. Early a.m. on Friday, the President then announced via Twitter that he and Melania tested positive on Thursday evening. Since then, many people who attended the September 26 Rose Garden Supreme Court nomination announcement and other events attended by the President, First Lady and Hope Hicks have tested positive for the virus, including several Republican senators.
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On Friday, White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, confirmed that the President knew he could be infected when he visited a fundraiser in New Jersey on Thursday. President Trump was also rushed to Walter Reed Medical Center for continuing care after experiencing a fever and drop in blood oxygen levels. The White House then passed out two images of the President still working on Saturday and he claimed on Twitter that he was already feeling better, but many people now fear that anything can happen with his health, especially given his age, blood pressure and weight. It’s also well-known that a lot of coronavirus patients start to feel well and then experience sudden life-threatening symptoms.
State of the Election and Economy
Although the presidential race continues, the spread of the virus among so many members of the administration, especially those who previously claimed that they thought that the pandemic was about to end, has been a hard hit for the Trump campaign. For now, President Trump is unable to attend live events, including campaign rallies, debates and fundraisers. Since Vice President Pence has tested negative, he has decided to ignore the advice of physicians and scientists and continue to go to fundraisers, attend meetings and move forward with the upcoming vice presidential debate.
During the past week, experts in various industries revealed that they have found clear indicators that some jobs involving close contact between people won’t ever return even if a viable vaccine becomes readily available some time in the future. Businesses in some industries and sectors also won’t ever be able to completely bounce back from their current losses. Many small businesses, restaurants and hospitality and travel-related companies have been forced out of business forever. Some well-known and historic name brands and companies have filed bankruptcy, cut jobs and closed stores and locations. This past week, American Airlines and United Airlines announced that they had no choice but to furlough approximately 32,000 employees. Without additional stimulus aid to individuals and businesses, a lot more people will be homeless and unable to eat or even feed their children.
Outstanding Problems With Reaching a Deal
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On Saturday, the President called for a stimulus deal via a 1:46 p.m. tweet and asked for everyone to work together. Yet, also on Saturday, Senator McConnell announced the postponement of all Senate floor proceedings because of the coronavirus spread until at least October 19. His decision could prevent a stimulus package approval until nearly the end of the month.
Both sides are in agreement about a one-time $1,200 stimulus check to people who make under a certain amount of money. Some Democratic leaders want the American people to receive the money monthly until the end of the pandemic, but they’re willing to wait to argue this point until after the presidential election. Many Republicans fear the creation of a universal living wage or basic income stipend because they’ve already seen some Americans refuse to work when given $600 weekly unemployment checks. They believe that so-called “free money” encourages too many workers to stay home. Some Republican senators have even been against the $400 per week option promoted by their own party.
The other sticking points with Republicans continue to involve the size of the overall stimulus package and terms related to helping Democrat-led states or cities with so-called “blue state bailouts.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has argued that Republicans are unlikely to go above $1.5 trillion. Democrat-led states were among the first to be hit by the virus because their major cities have a lot of global transportation hubs. They also acted in a sense as test sites for coronavirus mitigation efforts because a virus spread of this magnitude hadn’t occurred in the U.S. since the 1918 Pandemic (H1N1 virus). Although Republican-led “red” states have benefited from the coronavirus efforts of leaders and healthcare workers in blue states, some Republican politicians ague that Democrat-led states were already going broke because they wasted money and resources prior to the pandemic and shouldn’t be rewarded for it. Some Republican senators have stated publicly that they won’t approve any deal, even a bipartisan one, until after the election.
What are Economists Saying?
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Economists across the country agree that the economy will continue to suffer without a stimulus package. Many economists have argued that the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act promoted by Democrats over the summer didn’t actually contain enough financial aid to stabilize the economy. They have also stated that providing workers with unemployment benefits and stimulus checks and funding local and state governments and pandemic programs are necessary efforts for long-term economic stabilization and growth. They believe that most workers want to return to work, but workers can’t do so if their employers have no revenues or workplaces are unsafe.
The revised House HEROES Act includes $436 billion in emergency aid for state and local governments, $120 billion for small businesses, $75 billion for COVID contact tracing and testing and $225 billion for education. Beyond unemployment benefits, the Act also includes one-time $1,200 stimulus checks for anyone who earned $75,000 or less in adjusted gross income. People with an AGI between $75,000 and $99,000 would receive some sort of lower amount. Anyone who has a child or adult dependent would receive $500 per dependent.
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