How Far Is Congress From Another Relief Bill?

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The United States is currently in the grips of a major public health crisis. The novel coronavirus has been raging as a pandemic for the better part of four months. In spite of this, daily case numbers are as high as they’ve ever been. COVID-19 has killed over 140,000 Americans and sickened millions more. This has ravaged the economy, upended public perception of the current administration, and left millions jobless.

Mitch McConnell photographed speaking before the Senate
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The GOP, which controls the Senate and White House, has been scrambling to assemble a coherent national response to this situation. Republicans’ normal style of governing, a more hands-off, “by your bootstraps” approach, has proven highly unpopular during this pandemic. The American people want social programs to protect them during this unprecedented emergency.

Congress Unable to Reach Agreement

At the end of July, the CARES Act will expire. The $600 per week in extra unemployment payments, as well as the hold on evictions, are set to go away on August 1. This is a looming deadline for the Senate and House as the week drags on. However, Democrats and Republicans are no closer to agreeing on legislation than Senate Republicans are with themselves.

A sure sign of the havoc the pandemic has played with Republican governing practices is how divided and unsure the GOP seems in both the Senate and White House. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and President Donald Trump have signaled their desire to simply extend the provisions of the CARES Act through the first few weeks of August to buy the Senate time to hammer out a bill they can agree on.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is finding it difficult to rally his party behind any legislation. Some far-right Senators are loath to sign off on any more federal spending. Others that are more moderate feel as though more robust spending on testing and contact tracing is needed. Many Democrats have described measures that include billions for military spending as dead on arrival.

Can Congress Pull It Together?

There have been few other times in America’s history that the country needed strong leadership from the White House. However, many have accused President Trump of quite the opposite. As the country slips in international reputation and continues battling a disease that other countries beat back months ago, Congress squabbles over how to serve the people.

This has led to a frustrated public. Older Americans are already having to find treatment for arthritis pain and Medicare plans that fit their budgets. Adding the COVID-19 pandemic and a nonexistent government response to the virus on top of that has led to a dark national outlook that is poised to bring changes comes the November election.