The Senate leaves Washington DC for their August recess without an agreement on COVID-19 relief. Ava DeSantis writes why any agreement seems unlikely, but still necessary.
On Thursday, the Senate began its August recess. The House left at the beginning of the month. There is no agreement on COVID-19 relief, as the major provisions in the first aid package expire. There are no further talks scheduled between the two sides, as Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill, asked when she would meet her Republican colleagues again “I don’t know. When they come in with $2 trillion.”
Instead of further talks, Democrats and Republicans spent Thursday explaining their goals to the press. Pelosi held a press conference, standing next to a graphic which outlined the distance between Republican and Democratic goals. According to Pelosi’s graphic: the Democrats want $60 billion+ in anti-hunger and food assistance, the GOP wants $250,000; the Democrats want $100 billion in anti-eviction and rent assistance, the GOP wants nothing; the Democrats want $75 billion in testing and tracing, the GOP wants $16 billion; and the Democrats want $300 billion for safe schools, and the GOP only offers $105 billion.
On September 30th, government funding will run out, and Congress will need to pass a new spending bill. If there is no agreement, some fear a shutdown. However, Americans, are scared for their lives and livelihoods. House Majority leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) compiled stories from Americans throughout the country, frustrated with the lack of government action. “The extra $600 has been really great but with it coming to an end, it’s really going to put a struggle on my family financially wise and we are going to have to cut back on a lot of things,” said Tinker Rollans from Arkansas.
“Not only [to] have the stress of how you’re going to put food on the table, and pay the bills, and pay your rent, and have a roof over your head — but you have the fear and frustration of the pandemic,” explained Todd Serna of Arizona.
The President signals flexibility, recently reversing an earlier threat by saying he would sign a COVID-19 relief bill even if it included USPS funding. Trump signed four executive orders on COVID-19 relief Saturday, promoting eviction protections, proving up to $400 in enhanced unemployment benefits, instituting a payroll tax holiday, and allowing students to defer loan payments.
GOP lawmakers, however, are divided even on their own relief bill. The GOP HEALS Act was in the Senate at the end of July. McConnell told the press “probably not everyone” in the Republican conference would support the plan. Sen. Mike Braun, an opponent of the GOP bill, predicted “it’s going to lose a bunch of us that are fiscal conservatives, regardless of the content-just the amount.”
To get an agreement passed, Congress needs to balance the interests of struggling families, Democrats, fiscal conservatives, and the White House. An agreement coming together by the end of September, as Congresspeople return home, seems unlikely.