Save an upset court or recount victory, President Donald Trump is going to be a one-term president, putting the fate of a second stimulus check in limbo.
Trump is contesting the validity of the results of the 2020 election that put Biden over the 270 electoral vote threshold needed to claim the presidency. With Republicans still in control of the Senate, Democrats in control of the House and a new administration on the horizon, little has changed since Election Day in the way of political motivation for legislators to reach an agreement before the inauguration.
However, Democratic strategist Andrew Feldman told Newsweek that it’s important Democrats move to pass another coronavirus relief package. He called it “unacceptable” that the two sides couldn’t pass a relief bill before the election and said now that ballots have been cast, it “has to be Democrats’ sole focus.”
“If we are talking about putting addressing the pandemic at the forefront, if that is what we’re saying is the most important piece of the puzzle, we have to push as hard as we can for a stimulus for the people who are struggling right now,” Feldman said. “Until we get the virus under control, we need to make sure hard-working Americans have what they need to put food on the table, and Congress has been turning a blind eye to that.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent months discussing a potential relief package with Trump administration officials, and the two sides reportedly reached an agreement on another round of stimulus checks. Had a package come to fruition, it’s likely the second set of economic impact payments would have resembled the first round, although it’s possible that it could have been expanded to include additional $500 payments for dependents of all ages. But, an agreement on stimulus checks means little without a broader package, as Pelosi was not keen on the idea of doing relief in a piecemeal fashion.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is looking to do another relief package, but a promising October jobs report signaled to him that a more targeted approach is the way to go. He told reporters in Kentucky that the 6.9 percent unemployment rate “reinforces” his argument that “something smaller rather than throwing another $3 trillion at this issue is more appropriate.”
The Democrat-led Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act that passed the House in May had a $3 trillion price tag. But Democrats have since started mulling the possibility of a package within the $2 trillion range and the last round of discussions was over a $1.8 trillion package.
Pelosi hasn’t put a definitive price tag on the next round of relief but told reporters on Friday a smaller package does not “appeal to me at all.” Without crushing the virus, Pelosi said, America will still be “dealing with the consequences.”
“For us now, the fact that we have the president of the United States to speak to the American people in these terms is such an advantage for us to be able to work together in a bipartisan way rather than the Republicans mischaracterizing what we’re trying to do in the Congress of the United States,” Pelosi said.
The Senate is back in session, with the House following next week, and McConnell called the pandemic “job one” on Wednesday. It’s unclear if the two sides will be able to work together in a meaningful fashion, though, and looking toward January, Democrats have the advantage. By the inauguration, Democrats could have either picked up two Senate seats in the Georgia runoff elections to create a 50-50 split, giving them control of the Senate with Kamala Harris as vice president casting tie-breaking votes. They’ll still have control of the House and with Biden in the Oval Office, it could be an advantageous position for Democrats pursuing a larger package.
If Republicans win at least one of Georgia’s seats they’ll likely keep control of the Senate, putting Democrats in largely the same position they’re in now, except with control of the White House.
Technically speaking, there is enough time for legislators to pass a relief package and send out economic impact payments before the inauguration on January 20. But, without a Republican president on the hook for the economy amid a looming election, it’s unclear what new political motivation the GOP has to bend to the Democratic Party leadership’s demands.
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