Although Congress had seemed to reach a nonpartisan agreement over the next Covid relief package, all their efforts fell apart following comments made by President Donald Trump on the meager amount of the checks Americans would be receiving.
Initially, the bill was passed along with a 1.4T omnibus appropriations bill to extend funding for transportation, hospitals, and small businesses. Direct stimulus checks (much like the $1,200 checks which had arrived earlier this year) made up a relatively small portion of the bill, capping at only $600 per person.
Surprisingly, Donald Trump has become a leading advocate for a larger bill. In a series of tweets, he suggested upping the checks to at least $2,000, or at least $4,000 per couple. He also blasted the funds directed towards foreign aid and museums, citing his disgust at the “bare minimum” given to the American people. However, some found his outrage as “too little, too late”, as it was primarily the GOP and the White House who had originally refused to increase the price of the stimulus checks.
As news of the package was announced, citizens also took to social media to criticize the amount of the stimulus checks. And they are right to protest. Six hundred dollars is an incredibly pathetic amount for nine months of rent and or other necessities. Others online called the checks ignorant as it completely disregarded the high expenses of non-discretionary spending in the United States.
After the criticism of the bill, Democratic and Republican senators alike scrambled to alleviate concerns and avoid a veto. Nancy Pelosi, Californian Democrat and Speaker of the House, agreed with Donald Trump and attempted to pass a bill that raised the amount of the stimulus check to $2,000 (which was blocked by House Republicans), while simultaneously encouraging Trump to pass the current bill to provide some sort of relief to American citizens and avoid a government shutdown. Some Democrats expressed discontent on a deal with Trump but mostly affirmed that Democrats were the originally insisting on a larger relief package and got to work on a vote which would increase direct assistance.
Republicans, on the other hand, were unwilling to compromise or revamping the deal. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky called giving checks to those who didn’t need it a “socialist idea.” Others didn’t have such extreme stances but were still hesitant to lower spending on foreign aid.
The search for a compromise on economic relief couldn’t have come at a more precarious time. Since March, unemployment, poverty, and homelessness have all soared. An agreement in the House by increasing direct financial assistance is expected to slash unemployment aid according to an anonymous source provided by The Washington Post. Disagreeing visions for the next stimulus package only spells doom for those who are depending on it. I’ll admit it might be difficult to overcome party loyalties, but if there were any time to do it, it would be now. The fact of the matter is people need relief. The lingering question is whether Congress is willing to put aside its differences to provide it.
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