Conflict over stimulus bill resulting in little compromise

Sourojit Mazumder, Contributing Writer

As major elections loom ever closer this year, both presidential as well as congressional, conflict remains over the terms and budget of the congressional stimulus bill being discussed in Congress. Amid growing concern that lawmakers may face voters in November without having passed another stimulus package, Nancy Pelosi, the current Speaker of the House, said that the House would not leave for this year’s elections in November unless they released an additional boost of federal aid to the limping economy. 

The conflict over the budget of the bill began back in May, when a majority of Democrats sought to add to the $2.2 trillion stimulus package released in March (known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act). The House, narrowly controlled by the Democratic Party, passed a $3.4 trillion proposal in May, but it was ultimately rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate. 

Republicans have instead pushed for a so-called “skinny bill”, proposing a bill totaling a relatively meager $350 billion, which has not settled well with Pelosi, who remains resolute in her statement that she will not accept a bill worth less than $2.2 trillion. Pelosi, however, has not only faced criticism from Republicans for a bill they deem to contain an overly large budget, but also from high-level Democrats who believe that a bill totaling around $2 trillion would be insufficient in addressing the needs of the American people.

Desperately seeking to broker a compromise, the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus, a group comprising of 50 members of the House of Representatives seeking to cooperate on important policy issues, threw together a last-ditch plan that would inject $1.5 trillion into the US economy and would also provide $400 billion in unemployment aid. The proposal, however, was rejected by high-ranking Democrats who, as stated earlier, again claim that the compromise would provide inadequate cover to America’s most vulnerable families. 

When questioned about the Democrats’ refusal of the bipartisan compromise proposal, Fremd student Anish Mukherjee discussed some of his opinions on that refusal as well as some of the short-term effects of the bill. 

“If both parties each control one part of Congress, there will always be problems, but at least there was a detailed compromise plan suggested in this situation,” Mukherjee said. “That decision to refuse the $1.5 trillion was surprising because now nothing will be given to the people that need it most. By blocking the deal, people that desperately need help the most aren’t getting any assistance, let alone the $2 trillion assistance the Democrats wanted to provide.” 

However, while Mukherjee was a little surprised by the Democrats’ refusal to accept the compromise, Fremd student Advitya Batta isn’t surprised and in fact thinks the decision was logical.

“I feel like the decision was justified,” Batta said. “ A compromise might seem great to those in Congress now, but it might not seem so great in a few months if the economy and unemployment rate continue to get worse. If Democrats are going to provide help, it makes sense that they want to provide as much aid as possible.” 

As talks for compromise stagnate in Capitol Hill, an increasingly vulnerable American public faces great uncertainty in receiving federal aid that could keep millions of families afloat by sustaining small businesses, prevent a worrying trend of evictions in major cities, give students an extended timeframe to pay off student loans, and keep unemployed families from facing major debt crises. To make matters worse, Republicans seek to cut $600 weekly benefits for the unemployed while Democrats are urging them to extend the benefits. Slashed weekly benefits will further harm American workers, who have already faced extended layoffs due to America’s prolonged struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Social Studies teacher Amanda Schmidt had some insight to share regarding those affected by the reduced bill.

The people that are most impacted by reduced benefits are those that are relying on a fixed income for their livelihood, and the current amount is not matched with cost of living,” Schmidt said.