Next COVID relief bill stalls

Next COVID relief bill stalls
Screenshot via C-SPAN

We’ve previously noted how most of the efforts by congressional Democrats to get large portions of Joe Biden’s agenda sent to his desk have failed. In fact, the only major bills (aside from routine, stopgap funding measures) that have passed have been huge COVID relief bills. Well, as of this week, they don’t even seem to be able to pass those. There’s another $10B COVID bill pending in the Senate (for some reason) but instead of flying through the process on Tuesday as expected, the legislation now seems to be hopelessly stalled and it’s unlikely to receive any more attention until Congress returns from a two week Easter break. Just as a side note, how many of you work someplace where you automatically get two weeks of paid time off for Easter? (Associated Press)

A compromise $10 billion measure buttressing the government’s COVID-19 defenses has stalled in the Senate and seemed all but certainly sidetracked for weeks, victim of a campaign-season fight over the incendiary issue of immigration.

There was abundant finger-pointing Wednesday but no signs the two parties were near resolving their stalemate over a bipartisan pandemic bill that President Joe Biden and top Democrats wanted Congress to approve this week. With Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., prioritizing the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson by week’s end — quite possibly Thursday — the COVID-19 bill seemed sure to slip at least until Congress returns after a two-week recess.

As the AP points out, both sides were pointing their fingers at each other for the failure of the bill to launch. On Tuesday, the Senate GOP was ready to vote for the bill but insisted there first be a vote on an amendment intended to prevent the President from lifting Title 42 immigration restrictions next month. When Chuck Schumer refused to allow the measure to be heard, the Republicans blocked a procedural move to allow the COVID bill to move to the floor for a vote. The measure would have required 60 votes and it only received 47.

Of course, it’s not as if the Democrats were prioritizing the COVID bill either. They could have continued work on it today, but instead, Schumer is finalizing a vote on the confirmation of KBJ. Just as a reminder, this is a vote to confirm someone for a seat on a court that doesn’t even currently have an opening. So much for the critical nature of the relief bill, I suppose.

Speaking of which, here’s the other aspect of this food fight that really deserves a closer look. Do we really need another COVID relief bill at this point? Less than two weeks ago, CNN ran a lengthy analysis showing that most states are currently sitting on huge budget surpluses because they’ve received so much COVID money that they’re looking for other ways to spend it. Most governors are flushing that cash into tax refunds or subsidies to temporarily slow the surge in gas prices. Neither of these things has anything to do with COVID. So we’re going to set another $10 billion in imaginary money on fire for nothing?

That didn’t stop the White House from teeing up this political football. Jen Psaki accused the Senate GOP of blocking “the resources we need to save American lives.” She went on to say that “The virus is not waiting for Republicans in Congress to get their act together.”

There are actually a lot of things the virus isn’t doing these days. That’s because infection levels have largely stabilized and people have been more concerned with getting their lives back to normal than hearing another round of pandemic fear porn. This “blame the virus” strategy is well past its shelf life at this point, so perhaps the adults in the room could ask for a serious debate about why we need another COVID relief bill at this precise moment. Or, if we’re really so flush with cash that the government has an extra ten billion laying around, maybe they could use it to ensure that some new tanks and fighter jets from Poland make their way into Ukraine. Or is that just crazy talk?

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Jazz Shaw 10:01 PM on June 07, 2023