Congressional talks for the next round of coronavirus stimulus relief have been deadlocked for months. Not only are the House and Senate divided over party lines, but even the Senate and White House have failed to find common ground.
But now that the transition process for President-elect Joe Biden has officially begun, some Americans are hopeful that more help will come soon in the form of more pandemic stimulus checks or enhanced unemployment benefits.
Unfortunately, it’s likely that the holiday season will further obstruct negotiations. Lawmakers recessed for Thanksgiving and only have a few working days in December. Although both parties favor another round of direct payments, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been unable to agree on additional measures or a price tag.
Could Congress Approve Another Stimulus Package Before Biden Takes Office
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is leading talks for the Republicans. According to the Hill, McConnell has declared that lawmakers must pass new legislation “before the end of the year.”
But as a Wall Street analyst told CBS News, that doesn’t mean Congress will pass a comprehensive stimulus package like the CARES Act before January. This is especially true now that drugmaker Pfizer revealed that its COVID-19 vaccine is 90% effective.
According to Brian Gardner, chief Washington policy strategist at investment banking firm Stifel, the chance of widespread vaccinations over the following months will further deter Republicans from supporting a comprehensive federal stimulus bill in favor of a smaller one.
Last week, McConnell confirmed Garnder’s theory when he demonstrated his fellow Republican’s resistance toward a comprehensive relief bill. “We need to think about, if we’re going to come up with a bipartisan package here, about what size is appropriate,” he said, according to Politico.
“It seems to me that snag that hung us up for months is still there. I don’t think the current situation demands a multi-trillion-dollar package. So I think it should be highly targeted, very similar to what I put on the floor both in October and September,” he added.
In response, Pelosi contended that a targeted stimulus package “isn’t anything that we should even be looking at.”
To make matters worse, Congress must approve a new federal funding bill before mid-December to avoid a government shutdown. However, some theorize that lawmakers may include standalone measures such as stimulus checks or extra unemployment benefits in this piece of legislation.
More Stimulus Likely Under Biden Administration
On November 26, Biden urged lawmakers to “come together and pass a covid-relief package like the HEROES Act that the House passed six months ago.” He went on to say that, “once we shut down the virus and deliver economic relief to workers and businesses, then we can build back better than ever before.”
As US coronavirus cases surge, Biden has expressed worries that ordinary Americans are up against a “very dark winter” where “things are going to get much tougher before they get easier.”
“The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control,” Biden remarked during a speech in Delaware last week. “It’s a conscious decision. It’s a choice that we make.”
The President-elect backs broad support measures for the economy and everyday people, including more stimulus checks. However, the likelihood that lawmakers will pass a comprehensive bill depends on which party holds the Senate after January.
If Democrats flip two Senate seats during a special election in Georgia in January, they will control the House, the Senate, and the White House. This would allow them to pass a much-needed comprehensive stimulus bill similar to the CARES Act.
According to Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, a Democratic-controlled legislative branch may not only mean additional relief early next year but possibly more in summer 2021 as well.
However, the outcome could still go either way. If the Democrats lose the Senate, it could mean a continuation of this year’s gridlock.
The Need For More Stimulus Aid
A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) suggests that “Congress provide debt-financed fiscal support of $2 trillion between now and the middle of 2022, and then continue support on the order of $400 billion annually between then and the end of 2024, with a slow phaseout of this aid thereafter.”
As millions of people remain unemployed as a result of the pandemic and the few remaining measures from the CARES Act expiring at the end of December, Josh Bivens, the director of research at EPI, explains that the next plan should “first stop the economic bleeding and then repair the aspects that have been ‘rotted away’ in order to rebuild a resilient economy.”
- AS English. “Second Stimulus Check: Latest on US Coronavirus Relief Bill.” AS.com, AS En, 29 Nov. 2020, en.as.com/en/2020/11/29/latest_news/1606650512_181016.html.