The Elusive COVID Relief Bill

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The Elusive COVID Relief Bill
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This is the top story from our daily newsletter published on December 18, 2020. To have this and more delivered directly to your inbox scroll down and enter your email or click here to sign up.

Top story from the Wall Street Journal news team: “Lawmakers are closing in on a roughly $900 billion COVID-19 relief package that features another round of stimulus checks and $300 a week in enhanced unemployment insurance.” Here’s what both sides are saying about the latest relief package:

On the right: Conservatives and right-leaning outlets are applauding the imminent agreement and think that Democrats dragged their feet for political reasons. David Rutz of Fox News wrote that Speaker Nancy Pelosi had “refused to back anything less than $2 trillion” yet then “signaled her support last week for a bipartisan, $908-billion package.” According to Rutz, Pelosi said she had a change of heart because “we have a new president” and “vaccines are on the way.” Fox News contributor Trey Gowdy called it one of the “most despicable things” he’d ever heard a leader say. “What is missing is if [former Speakers] Paul Ryan or John Boehner said or done what she just said, there would be a media outcry,” said Gowdy. Rutz notes that “Republicans also lit into Pelosi last week for bringing up unrelated bills to the floor for symbolic votes, including ones on marijuana decriminalization and banning tiger ownership.” As it relates to GOP leadership, Alexander Bolton and Scott Wong of The Hill wrote yesterday that “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is getting much of what he wants” in the deal. He won’t get “liability protection for businesses and other organizations” but he will get a more targeted spending package that is a far cry from “the $2.2 trillion Heroes Act that Pelosi and Schumer said should have been the ‘starting point’ of the talks.” Go deeper with one article that trended on the right: “Bernie Sanders concedes Democrats held up coronavirus relief.

On the Left: Democrats and left-leaning outlets are also happy that a bill is finally closed to being passed, however they think more stimulus is needed, Mitch McConnell deserves blame for the delay, and the slow progress foreshadows the gridlock over the next four years. The Washington Post Editorial Board said, “Congress’s pandemic bill is late, imperfect — and needed. Pass it now.” The WaPo Ed Board praised Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and “a group of Republican and Democratic senators” for helping get this deal across the finish line. They also say “there’s plenty not to like” about the bill but that “… sometimes, politics has to be about not letting the best be the enemy of the good, and this is one of those times.” They conclude by saying: “It is a job that should have been done long ago, of course. But here’s another rule of pragmatic politics: better late than never.” Out west the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board echoed some of the same sentiment, saying: “It shouldn’t have taken so long” and then in the Big Apple, the New York Times news team reported that the only reason McConnell is caving is because Georgia’s senators were ‘getting hammered’ for Congress’s failure to act. According to The New York Times, “McConnell privately made the case to Republicans on Wednesday for a stimulus deal that includes another round of direct payments to struggling Americans, suggesting that delivering such help could boost the party’s hopes of hanging onto their majority in the Senate.” Ultimately, David Faris of The Week writes that “The looming stimulus deal is a dispiriting harbinger of the endless gridlock to come.” Keep reading.

Flag This: The bill matters because the government will shut down tomorrow and 12 million people will lose unemployment benefits the day after Christmas if lawmakers fail to act. Zooming out, it’s been a grim week from a statistical standpoint. The US death toll from COVID surpassed 300,000. Initial jobless claims rose to 885,000 last week, the highest total since September, according to new data released Thursday. And over the past five months, nearly 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty. This all comes just one week before Christmas.