While the US struggles to address the ongoing economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress is scrambling to draft meaningful legislation. An earlier relief bill passed in late March afforded $1,200 to millions of Americans and allowed for huge loans to small businesses. However, Congress has stalled out on efforts to further address the concerns of small business owners.
On Monday, a second round of relief legislation lost steam when disagreements across the aisle caused the bill to fail to pass. Republicans failed to put the legislation to a vote after Democrats made their desire for wider legislation clear.
Tensions over how to address the virus have been increasing since the pandemic landed on US shores. While Americans worry about their Humira medicare costs, Congress clashes over ideology.
“It’s time for the Republicans to quit the political posturing by proposing bills they know will not pass either chamber and get serious and work with us towards a solution,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement. The two represent the top congressional leadership among Democrats.
Neither Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell nor House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have issued any statement regarding the latest stumbling block for the legislation. While both sides of the aisle have proposed measures including $250 billion in relief for small businesses, Republicans have favored a narrower set of legislation than Democrats.
The clash in Congress underscores deep divisions in the American political system. Republicans, who spent eight years under Obama as obstructionist stumbling blocks, are now frustrated with Democrats’ moves to broaden safety nets.
“Will there be an opportunity to talk about the other programs? Yes, but a lot of us haven’t even spent any of the money at all,” vented Republican senator Dan Sullivan.
Republicans feel at a disadvantage to Democrats, who control the House of Representatives and have the massive bargaining power of a pressing pandemic on their side.
Democrats favor broader expansion of social safety nets, especially in the face of a national crisis. Republicans see such programs as governmental overreach and a waste of taxpayer funds.
Democratic leaders noted Trump’s own insistence on having the economy back up and running by May 1. “We all desire an end to the shutdown orders so we can get Americans back to work and back to normal. However, there is still not enough testing available to realistically allow that to happen,” reads the statement from Pelosi and Schumer. “It cannot wait.”