Members of Congress reconvened on Capitol Hill this week after an August recess, setting out to create additional relief for those affected by the economic consequences of the pandemic. By Friday, though, lawmakers in both chambers and both parties hadn’t agreed on legislation for that relief.
There’s about a $2 trillion difference between the two parties’ proposals, Benning said, with Democrats proposing a total of $3 trillion in relief, and Republicans offering $1 trillion.
“This week, [Republicans] moved forward with a procedural vote on a $500 billion narrower option, knowing there weren’t the votes to proceed,” Benning said. “We’re pretty much stuck at nothing.”
He said the parties have found consensus on the kinds of relief that are needed, but the upcoming election is making it difficult to strike an agreement.
“It’s looking increasingly likely that there will be no additional coronavirus relief provided until after the election,” he said.
The scope of the relief is the main source of conflict. Democrats want to provide most stimulus money to individuals, as well as funds for the Paycheck Protection Act. Also, they would extend, again, the $600 in weekly unemployment benefits. Republicans, on the other hand, have proposed lower levels of funding for these programs. And their $500 billion proposal this week did not include a new round of stimulus checks.
Both parties object to “tinkering” with what the other party has done to appeal to voters, or to their political base. For his part, Texas Sen. John Cornyn included a provision in the Republican proposal that would provide liability protections related to the coronavirus for businesses. Democrats, on the other hand, have included provisions that support for the cannabis industry, which some Republicans oppose.
But lawmakers running for reelection this fall also have to face voters who want or need financial relief. Those voters could blame them if they don’t pass a bill, Benning said.
“[Voters] don’t really care that Congress is gridlocked,” he said. “What they want is results.”