Congress is racing the clock to pass a COVID-19 relief bill before the House departs Washington for the holiday break at the end of the week. No lawmaker should leave the Capitol until a package is approved.
A bipartisan, $908 billion proposal is moving through the House, with agreement on many of the details.
It would provide four months of weekly $300 bonus benefits to the unemployed. That’s the essential piece. Roughly 12 million Americans will lose their jobless benefits the day after Christmas if Congress doesn’t act.
The package also includes financial help for struggling businesses, and temporary liability protection from virus-related lawsuits.
State and local governments would also get assistance with their budget deficits. And there is money for vaccine distribution.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, mindful of the impact of another round of COVID spending on the debt and deficit, is offering a smaller, $500 billion package that is more heavily weighted to business relief.
Nether plan includes a new round of stimulus checks, although lawmakers from both parties are pushing for that piece.
That would be a mistake. As structured, the bills are targeted toward those who need help the most. Sending stimulus payments to nearly all Americans, whether or not they’ve been financially impacted by the COVID-related shutdowns, provides a smaller return.
With much of the country in partial lockdowns and being urged to stay at home as much as possible, chances are low that the checks would be used as envisioned to boost local economies. More likely, they’d go to further enrich Amazon.
This is the time for sensible compromise, and that should be possible.
Complicating matters is a looming government shutdown if a short-term spending bill isn’t passed by Dec. 11.
COVID-19 relief could end up part of that deal, and probably should. Congress shouldn’t even think about taking a holiday vacation until this job is done.