Politicians on both sides of the aisle would be well served to pass the third stimulus package as quickly as possible. This is a layup. In a moment when Democrats are eager to deliver on promises and Republicans are scrambling to distance themselves from a previous administration that has left their party in tatters, passing this stimulus is a rare chance for both major parties to garner momentum in the same action... while actually doing some good at the same time.
In fairness, the passing of a third stimulus seems to be more of a foregone conclusion, than speculation. Arguments still abound concerning what the final amount will be and whom it will cover. Details over whether it will be $1400 per person, or $2000 are keeping the drama alive, but realistically the Democrats have the votes, and the parliamentary avenues open via reconciliation to ensure it happens; although, I suspect enough Republicans will vote in favor that Reconciliation won't be necessary.
Currently, things are at a temporary standstill as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell work out a power-sharing agreement, as a result of the 50-50 Senate makeup after Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock’s victories in Georgia. That agreement has long-reaching implications over committee assignments and general practice in the chambers going forward. Arguments over the fate of the filibuster are currently the nexus of tension.
McConnell is, ironically, stalling everything until a promise is made to keep the filibuster for at least the next two years. Schumer, will make no such guarantees. Antiquated arguments over parliamentary practices aside, expect this to shake out and for common ground to be found in the next few days; neither side can afford to look ineffective too long this early in Joe Biden’s Presidency.
Reconciliation is a way in which, through careful budget maneuvering, Democrats can force a vote on the COVID-19 Relief bill to only need 51 votes, which they have thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris.
Reconciliation is not a new process, nor are Democrats the only ones to use it. During Donald Trump’s first term, Republicans used Reconciliation to attack the Affordable Care Act (unsuccessfully), as well as a way to pass their tax cuts for the ultra-rich (successfully). All of which is to say, although rare, Reconciliation is far from an extreme measure to take in light of the ongoing pandemic and the need for a stronger response.
Reconciliation is not an easy path to take, however. It involves very specific criteria and process and could result in only pieces of the overall COVID-19 Relief bill being passed. Efforts to focus primarily on stimulus checks and small business relief seem likely as an overwhelming percentage of Americans are in favor, which makes it a much lower risk politically.
The Cost of the COVID-19 Relief Bill
Expect lengthy and faux impassioned diatribes about the cost of the COVID-19 Relief Bill, as well its potential impacts on National Debt to come raining down from the right side of the aisle. While not totally without merit, these are bad-faith arguments intended more to signal party allegiance than actual concerns. The truth is the GOP has proven they have no problem approving monstrous costs and budget overruns when they have their hands on the wheel. Small government speak always starts when they’re in the backseat.
Politically, it makes the most sense for Republican Senators to make these speeches, then grudgingly (and quickly) set about the business of accepting the bill. This offers them both the political cover of their on-record concerns, as well as the opportunity to campaign on the money they put back in the “working man’s pocket” come next cycle.
Ultimately, a third stimulus check is almost certainly coming. The question now is one of “how much”, and “when” more than “if”. Arguments surrounding the fiscal impact on the economy and its efficacy as a market driver are missing the point: millions of Americans are in danger of losing their homes, cars, jobs, and even not being able to eat.
Regardless of how you may feel about the cost of the COVID-19 relief bill, as Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen and many others have pointed out, the cost in not passing it is potentially orders of magnitude higher. Finding housing and medical care for millions of displaced Americans is just the first step. The impact on employment and small and medium businesses losing workers and viability could bring on a catastrophic second layer of costs that could cripple the economy for a decade.
There are fair and vital arguments to be had about the United States budgets, deficits and efficiency, none of which should stand in the way of this bill passing as soon as possible. Every possible incentive is there for smart Elected Officials to follow to ensure not only that Americans are cared for, but that their political career is as well.