While the White House appears to have given up addressing the spikes that are leaving hospitals overwhelmed and the economy faltering, today Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, a Trump appointee, warned Congress that it must pass a coronavirus relief package or see even worse damage. To Republicans who insist there is no need for such relief, he responded, “The risk of overdoing it is less than the risk of underdoing it.” Powell encouraged aid to state and local governments, hard hit by the pandemic, noting they are some of the country’s largest employers. Because most cannot borrow to make up for their lost tax revenues, without relief they will have to lay people off, thus worsening the recession.
In May, Democrats passed a $3 trillion relief package but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to take it up. The Senate began to work on its own package in mid-July, just before federal unemployment benefits ran out, but McConnell could not bring his caucus together behind anything. So he turned his back on negotiations, leaving Democrats to negotiate with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who held to a $1 trillion limit. The Democrats offered to split the difference and agree to a $2 trillion compromise. The Republicans refused.
In September, McConnell offered a $500 billion bill that has the key measure he wants: a liability shield for businesses whose employees contract coronavirus at work. When the Democrats refused it, he accused them of partisanship.
Then, today, news emerged that a bipartisan group of lawmakers had tried to hammer together a stopgap relief measure of about $908 billion to rescue small businesses, the unemployed, and other hard-hit parts of the economy.
As soon as news broke of the new bipartisan bill, McConnell shot it down. Instead, he will insert exactly what he wants into the upcoming government funding bill, which Congress must pass by December 11 or face a government shutdown. This forces Democrats either to do what he wants or to shut down the government, a solution that is usually political poison.
McConnell’s new plan has no state and local aid and only one month of jobless aid, but it has liability protection for businesses.
Biden hopes to initiate a sweeping economic relief and stimulus package immediately upon taking office. The upcoming elections in Georgia will be the difference between the fate of a new coronavirus bill, which McConnell can essentially dictate, and a tied Senate, where McConnell will have to negotiate.
Our death total as of this morning is 277,021. Total cases is 14,113,667, by far the worst in the world. In comparison, China has had 86,551 cases, and 4,634 deaths, and the country has 4 times as many people as we do. Although considerably smaller than the United States, New Zealand's death rate of 5 per 1,000,000 of population is MUCH better than our ratio, which is 835 per 1,000,000 of population because they took the virus seriously when it first emerged.