The Hill: Senate adjourns until September without COVID-19 relief package

Last Thursday, the Senate adjourned until September 8, without reaching a deal for the next round of coronavirus relief legislation. The lack of a deal leaves millions of Americans in financial peril, as the $600 per week federal unemployment benefit, the nationwide moratorium on evictions and the window to apply for Paycheck Protection Program small business loans have all expired.

Since May, the House and Senate have debated on an adequate aid package. The House is proposing a plan to extend the $600 per week payment, more than $900 billion for state and municipal aid, $25 billion into the U.S. Postal Service and $3.6 billion to states to promote election security and mail-in voting, but Senate Republicans have yet to agree.

From The Hill:

Senators will get at least 24 hours notice to return if congressional Democrats, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows are able to break the impasse and votes are scheduled. Otherwise, the Senate will formally reconvene on Sept. 8.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) predicted during a conference call on Tuesday that if negotiators didn’t restart by Thursday, the administration’s executive orders would be the only action that takes place until early September. 

“If it doesn’t happen in the next 48 hours, I think this is all you’re going to see until Congress gets back into session after Labor Day,” Grassley told reporters. 

There’s little reason to think a deal will be reached before then.

The inaction comes as the unemployment rate is at 10.2 percent, down from a peak of 14.7 percent in April but still slightly higher than the peak during the Great Recession. And the country continues to report tens of thousands of new coronavirus cases per day, including reporting nearly 1,500 coronavirus deaths on Wednesday in what is the highest number of daily deaths since mid-May.

The stalemate is taking place less than three months before the November election, injecting more politics into the dynamic compared to the four previous coronavirus relief bills that passed the Senate with either no opposition or only a handful of “no” votes. 

Vulnerable incumbents in both parties have sent warning signals this week to leadership that they need to cut a deal.

This comes as Trump confirmed on Thursday, that he opposes the Democrats’ proposed boost in funding for the U.S. Postal Service because he wants to make it harder to expand voting-by-mail.

In an attempt to sidestep Congress, Trump signed four orders last week that do nothing for the benefit of the American people, but rather a political stunt to give him a short-term political boost.

Governor Roy Cooper has called out Trump’s and Congress’ stalemate, stating that “We need to get unemployment compensation to the people who need it, people who are hanging by a thread, who need to put food on the table and need to pay the rent”.

With up to 40 million people at risk of eviction and 18 million unemployed, the time for Congress to come together was now. Instead, the Senate chose to take a vacation, while millions of Americans can’t afford groceries, utility payments or pay rent.

Bottom Line: Trump and the Senate have more than one thing in common, as their only priority is themselves, not the millions that are facing financial hardships and are left vulnerable to the ever-growing disparities caused by the pandemic.

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Alanna Joyner

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