March 24, 2020

Senate Coronavirus Bill

“A far-reaching coronavirus economic stimulus package remained stalled in the U.S. Senate on Monday as lawmakers haggled over its provisions… A 49-46 vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance, as the Republican-controlled chamber remained deadlocked for a second day.” Reuters

See past issues

From the Left

The left criticizes Republicans for refusing to put minimal conditions on big business and calls for more direct help for struggling families.

“The Republican bill would let small businesses borrow up to $10 million, and those loans would then be forgiven for any business that avoided cuts in jobs or wages. That’s a fair deal. But Republicans are proposing different rules for big businesses. Recipients of government bailouts would be required to avoid job or wage cuts only ‘to the extent practicable’ — a loophole so large it amounts to a lack of any meaningful obligation… what is the point of passing a bailout that does not protect jobs and wages?…

“Republicans can quickly resolve this standoff by accepting the necessary changes to protect the public interest. Alternatively, the Senate could table the big-business bailout. Boeing, the major airlines and other companies clamoring for help simply do not need federal assistance with the same urgency as small businesses and individual workers do — particularly because the Fed in recent days has stepped in to help big companies borrow money.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

“The proposal backed by the White House and Senate Republicans would give Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wide discretion over which companies get money and when. Democrats in Congress are saying not so fast — they want some guardrails around what companies can and cannot do with the money once checks are cut. Otherwise, they argue, what’s to stop an airline from using its bailout money to give its CEO a bonus instead of paying its workers? Or to prevent a major hotel chain from laying off workers while engaging in stock buybacks?…

“Nearly three-quarters of voters say companies receiving bailout money should commit to no layoffs… 82 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of independents, and 70 percent of Republicans agree on no layoffs… In a time like this, it’s fair to want to make sure American companies can stay afloat. It’s also fair to want to make sure they’re taking care of their workers, customers, and consumers instead of lining their executives’ and shareholders’ pockets.”
Emily Stewart, Vox

“As the Senate is embroiled in contentious negotiations for its third $1.8 trillion coronavirus package, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just unveiled a $2.5 trillion bill of her own… Pelosi’s bill reads like a mission statement for how Democrats might govern in this crisis if they weren’t constrained by a Republican Senate and president. It calls for coronavirus treatment to be free for patients, further bolstering unemployment insurance, directing $40 billion to states to help stabilize schools and universities, student loan forgiveness, funding for the homeless, and helping boost states’ vote-by-mail capacity…

“It’s about giving [Senate] Democrats more leverage in negotiations with the White House… We’ve yet to see whether any of these provisions will make it into the final product that Schumer is negotiating with Mnuchin and McConnell. But the speaker of the House just made it clear she is part of the equation.”
Ella Nilson, Vox

Democrats should demand much larger checks to individuals that will go out automatically in future crises, an even bigger upgrade to unemployment insurance funded by the federal government, budget backstops for state and local governments who are getting slammed, wartime-style mass state purchasing of medical equipment, and requirements that any company that gets rescued keeps its staff on payroll…

"[These] so-called ‘utopian demands’ are really just the bare minimum of what is necessary to actually address the crisis, and letting Republicans get their way will lead to a disaster that is only somewhat less bad than what would happen if we do nothing. Moreover, Democrats have all the political leverage in this situation, because Trump will take most of the blame if the economy collapses… Democrats, should they choose to play the same kind of hardball [as Republicans], would be trying to save the American people in the only way it can be done — through politics.”
Ryan Cooper, The Week

Job one today is the health crisis. Congress must fund a massive increase in healthcare hiring. Those who are risking their lives for the rest of us deserve reinforcements and bonuses. Next, Congress has to fund the manufacture and distribution of hundreds of millions of coronavirus test kits along with increased hospital bed-capacity and life-saving equipment, including ventilators. Telling governors they are on their own is not a strategy…

“Job two is to help those who lose their jobs or cannot seek work because they have been ordered to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19. Congress should provide hefty increases in the amount and duration of unemployment compensation… For at least the next three months, no one should be evicted because they didn’t pay rent or foreclosed on for missing a mortgage payment… Congress should [also] fund state and local government measures to get food to the needy and to provide appropriate safety equipment for beleaguered delivery workers who are making it possible for people to stay home.”
Reed Hundt, Los Angeles Times

From the Right

The right criticizes Democrats in Congress for blocking the bill and calls out biased media coverage.

The right criticizes Democrats in Congress for blocking the bill and calls out biased media coverage.

“Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week asked his GOP committee chairs to work with their Democratic counterparts on planks of the complicated legislation. Republicans sought about $850 billion in liquidity for businesses to prevent credit defaults and mass layoffs, and roughly the same amount on Democratic priorities—including enhanced unemployment benefits, direct payments to households, and a surge in medical spending. By Saturday night, Mr. Schumer was expressing ‘delight and surprise’ at the ‘bipartisan cooperation.’…

“Mr. Schumer suddenly claims there isn’t enough ‘transparency’ in the bill’s replenishment for the Exchange Stabilization Fund, but the rules are essentially the same as they’ve been during previous Democratic and Republican administrations. Put too many burdens on the loans and companies will refuse to take the money to stay in business until it may be too late; or they may prefer to shrink and order mass layoffs to ride out the crisis.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Yes, lots of Americans already need financial help. Congress should send checks. But at this stage, Washington has a responsibility to focus on salvaging businesses, because that’s the most effective way to rescue individuals. And this doesn’t only mean small businesses, which everyone loves, but the big, nefarious, and callous corporations that employ around 40 percent of our workforce, and remain the conduit for tens of millions of private health insurance plans and retirement funds…

“If Congress wants to temporarily freeze executive pay, they should go for it. But for many companies, cutting pay and trimming workforces may be the only ways to survive, even with a bailout package, a loan, and the Fed pumping money into the economy… This isn’t a case of executives’ acting corruptly or businesses being ‘greedy’ or rent-seeking, it isn’t about consumers recklessly borrowing, and it’s not about any cyclical economic event. Unlike the 2008 financial crisis, there’s no real moral hazard in saving businesses. I’m about as anti-bailout as they come. But the fact is that government is the one forcing the economy to shut down in an effort to save lives due to an existential threat that no one could be prepared for properly.”
David Harsanyi, National Review

Regarding Pelosi’s proposal, it’s “chockablock with provisions for causes and interests that are in no way related to the immediate need to halt the spread of the virus and calm the U.S. and world economies. Early voting? Student loan forgiveness? Offsetting carbon emissions? Bailing out the post office? Policing ‘corporate board diversity’? These have nothing to do with preventing further economic ruin or COVID-19-related deaths. They are merely items on the Democratic Party's wish list — issues that excite their left-wing base… Pelosi’s bill is a shameful attempt to use the panic, fear, and uncertainty that the virus has caused to accomplish purely ideological goals.”
Becket Adams, Washington Examiner

“If Barack Obama were president right now, and Senate Republicans in the chamber’s minority voted unanimously to block action on a COVID-19 spending bill at a moment of generational crisis — businesses laying off employees in droves, hospitals struggling to accommodate a barrage of patients, hundreds of thousands of Americans unable to leave their homes — what would the headline be on the front page of the New York Times?…

“What would Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo say on CNN if days before the vote, the House Republican whip told his fellow GOP representatives that the crisis represented ‘a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision’?… They would — correctly — call congressional Republicans and their leaders cynics for playing roulette with the lives of millions of Americans… But, for now, it’s just a ‘partisan divide.’”
John Hirschauer, National Review

“[The Washington Post] wrote, ‘Clash between GOP, Democrats over stimulus bill intensifies.’ The subhead was ‘$1.8 trillion package falls far short of advancing in the Senate.’ No mention of a filibuster in the headlines… How did the Washington Post’s filibuster headlines read back when Democrats last controlled the Senate?… ‘Senate Republicans block minimum wage increase bill.’ ‘Senate Republicans filibuster appellate court nominee Caitlin Halligan.’ ‘Senate Republicans block another Obama court pick.’ ‘Senate Republicans block vote on Hagel nomination.’ And so on…

“The Democrats may have had good reasons to filibuster the coronavirus package in the Senate on Sunday night. That is a matter for debate, and a responsible news outlet would cover both sides of that debate. But here’s what's not a matter for debate or a question where editors and reporters ought to apply ‘both-sidesism’: The Democrats filibustered the bill… while some questions (such as whether this bill needs to be fixed before being passed) have two valid sides, other questions (such as how the Senate bill fizzled on Sunday night) are clear-cut, even if one side doesn't like the way it sounds.”
Timothy P. Carney, Washington Examiner

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