Want a Better Stimulus? Elect a Better U.S. Senate

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Cory Gardner.

The Hill reports on today’s big news out of Washington, bipartisan agreement after days of fraught negotiations on a $2 trillion-with-a-T bill to steady the economy as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic:

The revamped Senate proposal will inject approximately $2 trillion into the economy, providing tax rebates, four months expanded unemployment benefits and a slew of business tax-relief provisions aimed at shoring up individual, family and business finances.

The deal includes $500 billion for a major corporate liquidity program through the Federal Reserve, $377 billion in small business aid, $100 billion for hospitals and $150 billion for state and local governments…

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) hailed the legislation as “the largest rescue package in American history.”

“This bill is far from perfect, but we believe the legislation has been improved significantly to warrant its quick consideration and passage,” he said.

In a lengthy Twitter thread this morning, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado explained the concessions Democrats were able to win from the GOP majority to improve the stimulus bill in ways to benefit ordinary Americans bearing the brunt of the economic fallout:

“Good but not enough” appears to be the consensus view from progressive Democrats and their allies, and though Speaker Nancy Pelosi agrees that more will be needed, what’s imperative at this point is to get relief in people’s hands without further delay:

She said the package did not go as far as a separate House bill, but argued that “thanks to the unity and insistence of Senate and House Democrats, the bill has moved a great deal closer to America’s workers.”

…The Democrats won a long list of victories in the $2 trillion package, including billions of dollars for hospitals, students, the unemployed and states struggling to finance the wave of emergency services. [Pols emphasis]

Democratic leaders in both chambers are highlighting those provisions as they race to bring their members on board. It’s not as strong as the House’s alternative bill, Pelosi said, but marks a stark improvement over the Republicans’ initial proposal — an indication she wants to move it quickly through Congress.

As Democrats drove a hard bargain in their negotiations with the Senate Republican majority over the past few days, they’ve been assailed by Republicans for “delaying” stimulus relief to Americans whose economic lives have been disrupted by the pandemic. It’s important therefore for Democrats to be clear about the better deal they got for ordinary Americans in those negotiations, and also be ready to act quickly to get this hard-won deal to the President’s desk.

Tangible better outcomes through tough negotiations by Democrats also effectively defang criticism from Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado and other Republicans that Democrats were “stalling” a stimulus bill to help American workers. It’s a strange state of affairs to see Republicans urging the swift passage of an economic stimulus package at all, of course, given how they’ve spent the last decade branding the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, dwarfed in every respect by the present legislation, as “Obama’s failed stimulus.”

With all of this in mind, it’s true that progressive Democrats will find plenty to criticize about the final bipartisan legislation. The moral of the story, in the end, is that a better deal was only ever possible in a U.S. Senate with a different composition from the one that exists today. White House too, of course but it in is Mitch McConnell’s GOP Senate that the sausage of this stimulus bill was made. In March of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe, history will record that America responded with the leadership we had.

For good or ill.

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