Columns, Opinion

2020 Breakdown: Could a second wave of pandemic aid finally be on the way?

More than six months after the U.S. Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, talks of a second stimulus package are finally starting to resurface.

Gabriella Aponte

Week after week since mid-March, unemployment claims have remained above 800,000 and even exceeded 6 million for a number of weeks following state-wide shutdowns. 

The nation’s unemployment rate sat at a high 7.9 percent in September, a drop from 8.4 percent in August. But this decrease was largely caused by a decline in the number of people seeking employment, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The stock market has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride, seeing soaring heights and shattering lows throughout the pandemic. All signs clearly point to a struggling economy and a suffering American public. 

Through all of this human suffering and economic destruction, though, both sides of the aisle have managed to sit idly by as they watch the country burn.

Now — about six months too late if you ask me — the president has oddly managed to reignite stimulus negotiations between Democrats and Republicans after completely halting that conversation.

Vanessa Bartlett/DFP STAFF

President Donald Trump tweeted on Oct. 6, “I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business.”

The president’s Twitter announcement sent his beloved stock market plummeting, making him quickly backtrack and put his political weight behind a standalone bill that would distribute stimulus checks of only $1,200.

Reversing course again, Trump took a jab at his own party on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show.

“I would like to see a bigger stimulus package, frankly, than either the Democrats or the Republicans are offering,” the president said. 

You may be thinking this latest development seems rather promising for the possibility of passing a new stimulus bill. After all, the president said he’d like to see a package even bigger than the $2.2 trillion one offered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and fellow Democrats. 

But as expected, things don’t look promising at all.

Heated talks between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have gone absolutely nowhere.

Pelosi and the left seem to be holding out for more funds for state and local governments — funds those governments desperately need to keep essential workers and health-care providers employed — while Mnuchin and the right refuse to agree to Pelosi’s proposed business tax increase.

Despite all the evidence to suggest neither side is willing to compromise, let’s just play out the best case scenario.

Even in a fantastical scenario in which Pelosi and Mnuchin actually do come to an agreement amenable to both sides, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it very clear it will not pass the Senate.

“I’d like to see us rise above that like we did in March and April but I think it’s unlikely in the next three weeks,” McConnell said to his constituents in Kentucky. 

This should come as no surprise, because McConnell later clarified that “the first item of priority of the Senate is the Supreme Court.”

Both sides have made their political calculations and neither of their ideal scenarios end with the American people receiving the help they so desperately need and deserve. 

Pelosi won’t budge on funding for state and local governments and McConnell refuses to entertain any kind of bill before seating Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court.

Washington Post economics reporter Jeff Stein, who has followed the development of stimulus talks and was at one point hopeful about Congress’ ability to pass a stimulus bill before Election Day, spoke to The Hill Thursday about the negotiation prospects. 

“Things are looking extremely bleak for the odds of a stimulus deal passing and the consequences for millions of people are really scary,” Stein said. 

With three weeks left until Election Day, it is highly unlikely that Democrats and Republicans will miraculously come to a consensus and suddenly pass a package that helps the millions of Americans in desperate need. 

Only one team loses in this stalemate and, unfortunately for us, that team is the American people. 

Help is nowhere to be found from Capitol Hill, so all we are left with is our vote on Election Day — the binary choice between left and right, Former Vice President Joe Biden’s America or Trump’s.

As you cast your ballots this season, remember this moment. Remember this moment when we needed our representatives and lawmakers to help us the most and, instead, they decided to toss us in the deep end with no life vest.

Though one was more willing than the other, neither side came to save us. Neither side ever will. 

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