Despite COVID-19 cases reaching record levels all over the country, deals in Congress to reach a second stimulus deal are moving at a snail’s pace. Even though both parties are verbally expressing support for economic stimulus, there has been no consensus about what elements need to be included and how much should be allocated. However, a bit of movement in discussions on both sides of the aisle is offering a glimmer of hope that Congress may push through a smaller package by the end of the year.
New Bill Being Pushed by McConnell: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to generate support for a last-minute deal before Congress adjourns for the year. McConnell has been leading discussions with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows trying to determine what Congress may have a chance to get on President Donald Trump’s desk.Read More »
McConnell’s move to push through his own bill flies in the face of another bipartisan plan introduced by a group of senators on Tuesday. This $980 billion bill was pushed by Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, and Susan Collins as well as Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin, Mark Warner, and Jeanne Shaheen. Independent Sen. Angus King was also involved in the talks between the senators who meet over Zoom during the Thanksgiving break.
Instead of jumping on board with this bipartisan proposal, McConnell devised a bill that was more similar to the earlier $500 billion plan brought forth by the Republicans earlier in the year.
Details of McConnell’s Bill Proposal: While the exact details have not been released, preliminary information states that the bill includes approximately $330 billion in small business assistance programs. This inclusion would deliver another set of Paycheck Protection Program loans to struggling businesses trying to keep their employees on board through the crisis. Other elements of the proposal include another month of pandemic emergency unemployment assistance, short-term aid to be directed toward child care providers, and $10 billion in loan forgiveness allocated to the US Postal Service.
Detractors of the plan are not happy that McConnell’s proposal does not deliver any funding for local and state governments. Democrats are also particularly motivated to deliver something to the nation prior to President-elect Joe Biden taking office on January 20. Congress has less than two weeks at work on the hill to deliver something to the president to sign into law. Without this legislation, it will be at least another month before anything passes.
Combining Stimulus with Additional Legislation? Also on Tuesday, McConnell indicated that his team may try to package his stimulus plan with the legislation needed to avoid a government shutdown. In order to prevent the shutdown, this legislation needs to be passed prior to the December 11 deadline. Packaging the two together may encourage both parties to come together in a joint agreement.
Why the Urgency? In addition to the overriding concern that the pandemic is clearly not getting any better, there are a series of current protections set to expire at the end of the year. Once this happens, the economic situation will become even more urgent in the absence of a new stimulus bill. At stake is the extension of expanded unemployment benefits, the moratorium on evictions, and the pause on student loan payments. These protections will end without the new stimulus in place prior to December 31, leaving millions of Americans in a dire financial situation.
Barr Does Not Find Evidence of Widespread Election Fraud: Trump lost a powerful ally in his fight to prove election fraud on Tuesday when Attorney General William Barr said that the Justice Department has not found evidence that indicates widespread election irregularities. The comments came in an interview with the Associated Press.
Despite being one of Trump’s biggest supporters, Barr said that any indication of fraud was not enough to affect the outcome of the election in any meaningful way. Trump’s legal team is still alleging voter fraud in spite of the fact that both Wisconsin and Arizona certified their election results on Monday.
Biden Introduces Economic Team: Just days after revealing his all-female senior communications team, Biden introduced his economic team at a press conference in Wilmington, Delaware. The team is led by former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, tapped to serve as Treasury Secretary in the Biden administration. The rest of the team is a mix of veterans who have served in various capacities under past Democratic administrations. In addition to Yellen, here is who Biden has nominated and tasked with putting the economy back on solid ground as the pandemic rages on.
- Office of Management and Budget – Neera Tanden
- Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers – Cecilia Rouse
- Council of Economic Advisers Member – Jared Bernstein
- Council of Economic Advisers Member – Heather Boushey
- Treasury Department Deputy Secretary – Wally Adeyemo
As Biden introduced his team, the clear message that he was sending to Americans is that help is on the way. In addition to the wealth of experience offered by the team that Biden has assembled, the group would also make history in a myriad of ways. If confirmed, Yellen would be distinguished as the first female to head up the Treasury Department. Adeyemo would serve as the first Black deputy secretary of the treasury. Similarly, Tanden would carry the distinction of being both the first woman of color and the first South Asian American to be in charge of the budget office.
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