The rumors we heard yesterday appear to be panning out. Congress has put in some long hours over the weekend and the House appears ready to vote on the second COVID stimulus package. The Senate is expected to follow in short order after an announcement to that effect from Midnight Mitch last night. The nearly one trillion dollars they are preparing to set on fire will be distributed in a scattershot fashion across all manner of targets. The Democrats were forced to compromise on some of the key figures, particularly in terms of the second round of direct cash payments to taxpayers and a new round of federal enhancements to unemployment benefits. The Republicans had to agree to allow the Federal Reserve to move forward with loans for larger businesses and municipalities. So is this the “Great Coming Together” that everyone’s been talking about? (Daily Caller)
Congress agreed on a $900 billion coronavirus relief package Sunday, overcoming several last-minute stalemates over the Federal Reserve’s lending powers and direct cash payments, Senate leaders announced.
“At long last, we have the bipartisan breakthrough the country has needed,” Senate Majority Leader McConnell said Sunday on the Senate floor. “I hope we can do this as promptly as possible.”
A compromise was reached late Saturday between Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, who had sought to end the Fed’s emergency lending programs that were created via the CARES Act’s passage in March. Though congressional leaders touted the agreement, it came to be after months of partisan gridlock stemming from disagreements over the bill’s size and scope.
As we discussed yesterday, the direct payments were slashed in half from $1,200 to $600. Similarly, the weekly enhancements to unemployment benefits are being cut from $600 to $300. That’s still a fairly impressive boost for all of the people who are now finding themselves out of work during the latest round of lockdowns. Considering that the maximum unemployment benefit in states like Illinois is $471 per week, that’s a 64% increase. (Assuming you can convince them to actually send you the money.) In Georgia, the maximum is $365, so that nearly doubles it.
They still haven’t released the full text of the bill yet, so we don’t know about some of the other details that were being debated. Is there any sort of protection for businesses against frivolous lawsuits over COVID infections? Will there be a federal extension of the ban on evictions on top of what the CDC has already ordered? Hopefully, we’ll have those answers and more by the end of the day.
The real trick will be convincing both sides to agree to the proposed omnibus spending bill that’s also currently in limbo. There’s a proposal on the table to approve an additional $1.4 trillion to keep the government running until next September. We’ve already had a couple of stopgap spending bills passed in just the last few days and another one is expected today. If they manage both of these feats, your elected representatives will have agreed to write a check for 2.3 trillion dollars in a matter of hours at a time when government revenues are completely tanking thanks to the lockdowns.
At this point, it almost feels useless to complain about the national debt. Nobody we send to Washington seems to care, despite the fact that their own children and grandchildren are already living on borrowed time in terms of a massive collapse of the federal economy. But hey… carpe diem, right? Either way, they’d better move quickly because our congress critters are preparing to blow out of town for the holidays. But wait a second… I thought nobody was supposed to be traveling for Christmas? Or does that only apply to the little people?