Stimulus Bill All Happening, Mitch McConnell Must Be REALLY Scared About Georgia
Okay, it's little. But that sumbitch didn't want ANY.
Congress finally passed its $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package late last night, as part of a great big $2 trillion spending bill that will keep the government running until Sept. 30, 2021. So hooray, no government shutdown threats until whatever crisis has Ted Cruz pissed off next fall. (He'll probably want to repeal Obamacare again.)
As we've already discussed, the bill, with its $600 checks for most Americans and $300 a week in emergency unemployment pay (over state unemployment) is better than no stimmy at all. It will extend the deadlines on a number of expiring relief programs, too, like extending the federal moratorium on evictions until Jan. 31 (not long enough), with a new infusion of $25 billion in rental assistance. Here's a rundown of what's in it.
President-elect Joe Biden supported the bill because relief was definitely needed, but he's been clear all along that he considers it a "down payment" on his more extensive goals for revitalizing the economy and controlling the pandemic — at this point, those are pretty much wrapped up in each other. So what does Biden plan to tackle once he's sworn in? That kind of depends on whether Georgia voters send Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock to the Senate in the Jan. 5 runoff election. Yep, just two weeks to go now. If Democrats take the Senate, then it will be a lot easier for any new stimulus to get a vote, although a big stimulus package would still need 10 Republicans to sign on. (We'll save the "eliminate the filibuster" discussion until after we know the outcome of the Georgia runoffs.)
One of the top priorities for Biden will be getting aid to state, local, and tribal governments, which have been slammed by the need to provide services to people during the pandemic, even as the economic crisis following last year's shutdown left them with less tax revenue. Republicans, especially Mitch McConnell, have opposed such aid because they are gigantic nutclots, with the excuse that the aid would help fund pension obligations for state and local employees in places where the local governments didn't betray public employee unions the way they should have. YES REALLY; don't forget that back in April, McConnell floated the idea that it would be better for states to just go bankrupt instead. Since that's not actually a legal option, Republicans have settled for simply never agreeing to state and local aid, even though there are plenty of Republican-led city and state governments that have been hit hard by the crisis. Wouldn't want a cent to cover teachers' pensions, so let's force layoffs of public workers instead.
So yeah, having 50 Democratic senators would at least get that a vote, and we can imagine 10 Republicans voting to keep their own states funded.
Biden has also made it clear that he wants another round of $1,200 direct payments to Americans, because by the time any new stimmy is passed, the $600 checks that should be going out next week will be long gone. And the bill passed yesterday only provides extended unemployment benefits — the $300 a week over state unemployment, plus extensions of state benefits and a special unemployment benefit for gig workers — for 11 weeks. Those will all run out in March, and anyone who thinks the economy will be recovered by then is a Republican who is also lying. Another moratorium on evictions will almost certainly be needed as well.
And beyond whatever new stimulus Congress comes up with, Biden should definitely use his executive authority to forgive federal student loandebt — he's proposed forgiving $10,000 for all borrowers, but Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer, and others are calling for up to $50,000 per borrower. That would free up a lot of people to get out and do stuff in the economy. (Sadly, the just-passed bill doesn't extend the current interest-free deferment on student loans, so those will be required again come Jan. 1.)
As for whether a new stimulus will get enough support from Republicans to pass, the odds aren't great; with a Democrat in the White House, the GOP is likely to suddenly remember that, after passing huge tax cuts for the rich under Trump, they really hate the national debt again. If Rs hold the Senate, there's a good chance McConnell will demand his absolutely terrible COVID-19 liability protections for corporations be part of the deal; even if Georgia is a win for Democrats, McConnell might demand the liability shield as the price of negotiations. (Kill the filibuster! Kill the filibuster!)
There's also this New York Times piece that suggests the short-term stimmy package signals hope that Republican moderates will work together with their Democratic counterparts to help Biden, which seems perhaps a tad too optimistic in the age of McConnell, but who knows — with Trump gone, maybe some R's will decide they like that bipartisan thing they supposedly used to do when virtually none of the current crop of Republicans were in office. We don't plan to be lighting any candles at the Bipartisan Shrine of Tip O'Neill, though.
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