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The Weekend is Calling, and the Senate is Answering

Its been a tough week in Washington.  While most eyes have been focused on the House hearings involving Attorney General Barr on Wednesday and the tech giants on Thursday, the Senate has been working on its version of the next stimulus bill.  And now, with the weekend upon us, it appears their work has been for naught as they have now adjourned until 3 p.m. on Monday.

Under normal circumstances, the Senate NOT getting things done would be considered a bonus for the country.  In this case, however, a lot of people are counting on this second stimulus bill.  At issue are the enhanced unemployment benefits that millions of Americans have been receiving.  These benefits not only included the usual benefits that come with the program, but also an additional $600 a week.  This money was intended to help both the individual families and the larger economic picture in the country.  This program expired on Friday.

There were some last-minute efforts to salvage the weeks work.  Ron Johnson (R-WI) proposed a temporary extension of $200 a week, but this was rejected.  Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pushed for the Senate to adopt the $3 Trillion bill passed by the house, but McConnell rejected this as a “totally unserious proposal.”

One might think that the biggest road block here is the Senate Democrats practicing the infamous filibuster.  And while that might become an issue at some future point, at the present time the strongest opposition comes from 20 or so Republicans who are opposed to another large bailout, some to the very idea of it and some to the specifics of what’s been discussed this week.

In a press briefing earlier this week, the Majority Leader acknowledged this difficulty.  “Look, I think it’s stating the obvious that I have members who are all over the line on this,” McConnell said. 

One voice opposed to this bill is that of Texas Senator Ted Cruz who said, “It’s a mistake.  I think we should be focused on reopening the economy not simply shoveling trillions of dollars out of Washington.  I think this bill is the wrong approach.”

He isn’t new to this opposition either.  In regard to the last stimulus bill, Cruz expressed concern at the idea of paying people more money not to work than they would get for working.  Such a policy would mean economic suicide.  Indeed, he would be right if such policies were long term.

For other law makers in the Republican camp, part of the problem is that the bill includes so much funding for things unrelated to combating the Coronavirus or providing economic relief.  One such Senator is Rick Scott of Florida, “I just don’t understand it.  How is it tied to the Coronavirus?  I never understood why we were giving money to the Kennedy Center or National Endowment for the Arts.  During a pandemic, let’s concentrate on solving the problem.”

With an apparent second outbreak, states closing things down again, and communities wondering how they’re going to handle the start of the new school year, there are plenty of Corona-related problems that need to be solved.

One thing is for sure, the second stimulus bill’s road to becoming reality is going to be a rocky one.  Finding ways to satisfy enough Republicans and Democrats in the Senate is a battle in itself.  Then reconciling that bill with the one that came out of the House will be just as difficult.  Complicating this is the fact that we are less than a hundred days out of an election and politicians of all stripes will be looking to get their name in the news with theatrics. 

Next week is going to be a wild ride.

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