Will Congress Care About Another CARES Stimulus Package?
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With the House and Senate largely in recess until mid-September pending a bipartisan stimulus deal, there has been much speculation about whether or not a new spending package will be a reality.
Democrats and Republicans have been at a negotiating impasse since the end of July, when the weekly $600 unemployment subsidy and other benefits from the CARES Act expired on July 31st. GOP Senators have proposed a $200 weekly subsidy, arguing that a lower amount would incentivize workers so they can return to work faster and boost the economy. Democrats have pushed for the same $600 weekly benefit and argued that workers still need the money to pay for essentials.
The gridlock has prompted swift executive action from the Trump administration. Earlier this month, President Trump signed an executive order that would provide $400 in unemployment benefits ($300 if states could not fund the additional 25%). There are still further questions on how Congress will react. The congressional impasse is still going on, and the state of talks is unclear despite both sides offering interest in further negotiations.
In an election year, major legislation such as the CARES Act will be a source of contention between and within both political parties. What started off as unanimous support has become a divided campaign issue. The Wall Street Journal reported on how "internal divisions on each side are complicating their efforts to propose new measures." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) and Democrats have said that they would reduce their offer of $3.5 trillion and ask Republicans to increase a $1 trillion offer, pushing for a deal of approximately $2 trillion. Many Senate GOP members and White House officials have said that they would not support the Democrats' $3.5 trillion stimulus bill, instead advocating for a smaller package.
The fate of the next stimulus package could be determined by more moderate lawmakers. Whether the House and Senate leadership take on the views of these members is another unknown. Members of a moderate group of Democrats, the Blue Dog Coalition, wrote a letter to the House and Senate leadership calling for more bipartisan talks to pass the next stimulus package. The letter stated:
As the House prepares to vote this weekend on a bill to protect the United States Postal Service, we urge you to restart bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on a fifth COVID-19 relief package that is commensurate with the scale of this public health and economic crisis. Although there are meaningful differences between the HEROES Act and the HEALS Act, there is also considerable common ground. In an era of divided government, the reality is that only bipartisan solutions will deliver much-needed support, and that requires principled compromise by both parties.
Senate Republicans could also affect the state of negotiations by offering a much smaller bill with many fewer areas of disagreement between both parties. This $500 billion proposal would provide funding for the Postal Service, protection for employers against lawsuits related to COVID-19, a $300 unemployment benefit, and aid for small businesses and schools. If this proposal or a similar one is passed, both Democrats and Republicans could give themselves more time to negotiate on any further stimulus package if desired.
As the RNC convention begins and the road to the general election in November heats up, Democrats and Republicans will soon have to determine whether or not another stimulus package should be passed at all. The stimulus provisions offered by each side could be more important for campaign messaging than the passage of a bipartisan bill.
The battle over the future of the CARES Act has yet to begun.
Sherman Tylawsky is an Editor-at-Large for The National Times