Presidential transition issues and ongoing litigation could delay a second coronavirus stimulus bill, one that would possibly include another round of direct payments to the public.
Rep. Frank Pallone, D-NJ, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, helped Democrats draft their $2 trillion stimulus bill. He said the election delays were impacting negotiations.
Speaking of Republicans, Pallone said “It’s just a failure to do their job and to govern because they’re so focused on trying to undermine the election. I do believe it hinders efforts to pass the bill. It indicates they’re not focusing on legislation to deal with the COVID crisis.”
Before the election, the Trump administration floated a $1.9 trillion bill while Senate Republicans went even lower – $500 billion. Democrats rejected both. Negotiations over the bill are in limbo, however, as the transition from the Trump administration to that of president-elect Biden is hindered over the controversy of the election.
Lawmakers are set to return to Washington this week and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said work on a new aid bill is “job one.” That doesn’t mean things will happen quickly, however, due in part to Senate runoffs in Georgia that won’t be decided until Jan. 5.
What would a second package include?
Both sides have agreed on a second round of stimulus payments for the public, similar to those that went out in March during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Those checks included up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples with $500 per dependent.
A relief measure is also expected to provide additional funds for small businesses.
The two parties remain divided on funding to support for state and local governments, boost to federal unemployment and a widespread COVID-19 testing and tracing program, something Democrats have pushed for.
Those disagreements mean another relief measure and additional direct payments may not arrive until next year.
Economist and business groups worry that delay will only exacerbate problems that arose during long shutdowns and heavy job loss.
“While there may be differences of opinion on how to best move forward, our nation must rally around the common cause of recovery. On this, there can be no division,” U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a statement. “Job number one must be pandemic relief. American small businesses cannot afford for Congress to wait another three months to act.”