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Republicans, Democrats unable to solve Impasse over Coronavirus Stimulus Package

Expanded unemployment benefits are set to expire on Friday as the Senate voted 47-42 to begin debate on a House coronavirus stimulus bill next week Fox news reported.  The Chamber then left Washington for the weekend.

The debate over another stimulus package to boost an economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic continued between Republican and Democratic lawmakers.  Democrats want a huge, inclusive $3 trillion package while Republicans favor a smaller $1 trillion plan revealed on Monday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).  

The sides have not found much common ground.  White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said, “We’re so far apart on a longer-term deal right now, that even if we said ‘yes’ to a longer-term deal you could (have) weeks of negotiation without getting to common ground.” 

One America News Network reported that Republicans were considering ideas for a “Plan B” as the partisan divide continued.  Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said that numerous proposals were being considered.  “There are a lot of different ideas floating right now, nobody has settled on anything,” he said.

A preview of Republican strategy was revealed last Sunday.  White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows suggested the piecemeal approach.  “Honestly, I see us being able to provide unemployment insurance, maybe a retention credit to keep people from being displaced or brought back into the workplace, helping with our schools,” Meadows said. “If we can do that along with liability protection, perhaps we put that forward and get that passed as we can negotiate on the rest of the bill in the weeks to come.”  Democrats continue to push for an all-inclusive bill.

Republicans and Democrats disagree on the extension of the $600 per week unemployment benefit into January 2021.  In general, Democrats are in favor of the extension while Republicans oppose it on the grounds that it disincentivizes unemployed people from seeking work.   However, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, a Democrat who took office last year, agreed with Republicans.  “I think sometimes it discourages work,” Lamont said last month.  “I would put off this extra $600 true-up they’re talking about,” Lamont continued. “I don’t think we need that.”  Connecticut’s unemployment claims in April were up 20 times more than ever before, according to Lamont.  The massive increase in unemployment payouts emptied the state’s unemployment trust fund and forced the state to apply for a $1.1 billion loan earlier this year to continue those payouts.

One area of agreement between Republicans and Democrats appeared to be extending the moratorium on evictions.  Keeping people from being forced from their homes was pushed by Democrats and agreed to by White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.  “We will lengthen the eviction, we will lengthen it,” Kudlow said last Sunday.

The issue of increasing the National Debt was not brought up during the recent negotiations, but regardless of which approach is ultimately adopted a massive increase in the debt will occur.  Balanced budgets used to be a strong issue in Republican congressional circles but the coronavirus pandemic seems to have removed objections from budget hawks in the GOP.

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