The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has thrown America into its deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression. In times like these, people look to the government for assistance. The last bill passed to aid people during the pandemic was five months ago in May. Congress is currently debating possibilities for another relief package, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has offered a 1.8 trillion dollar bill supported by President Trump.
However, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has not accepted Mnuchin’s relief bill. Pelosi’s reasoning for not taking the deal is still somewhat unclear. Her stated priority does seem to be helping Americans with buying food and paying rent. She does accurately see the inadequacies of the package, particularly with respect to preventing evictions. However, when interviewed on CNN, she denounced Mnuchin’s relief package, saying “the president wants to put a check with his name on it in the mail.” Pelosi seems to factor in the political implications of giving the Trump administration credit for providing relief, which may drive more Americans to vote for Republicans.
Pelosi is right in saying the bill doesn’t go far enough. In fact, even if Pelosi were allowed to write the bill exactly as she saw fit, the bill still wouldn’t go far enough. However, Democrats shouldn’t let this prevent them from passing at least some relief for struggling Americans when it’s so desperately needed. Representative Ro Khanna and businessman Andrew Yang have both expressed similar sentiments; saying the package isn’t as much as we would hope for, but it is simply needed so desperately we must pass it.
It should be noted that there may not be support for Mnuchin’s relief package among Senate Republicans. Majority Leader Mitch Mcconnell himself has come out against the bill. This, however, is no reason to refuse to pass it in the House. There are plenty of ways of criticizing the Republicans for refusing to pass adequate relief during COVID-19, but I think showing the actions and motivations of Democrats during this time is particularly important. Pelosi is refusing to support a relief package which would greatly help the tens of millions of struggling Americans and she is doing it, at least in part, simply to prevent the Trump administration from looking good.
We have to keep in mind how dire the current circumstances are in America. Tens of millions are at risk of eviction, the unemployment rate is still sky-high and eight million people have fallen into poverty since the last federal stimulus. People are desperate for help, and direct financial relief is absolutely the most helpful thing that can be done right now. Just putting $1,200 into the hands of every American is a great start to helping Americans pay rent and afford food.
Pelosi also needs to acknowledge that the government is currently dominated by Republicans both in the Senate and Presidency. If a bill is to be passed in the next month — which the American people direly need — it will simply have to be a bill on the Republicans’ and Trump’s terms. Even if we are completely confident Democrats will take both the Senate and White House in February, there is absolutely no excuse to wait until then to start giving relief to desperate Americans.
Economic relief for struggling Americans has already taken too long. There is no more time to debate; people need help as soon as possible. Hopefully Pelosi is bluffing and she will take the deal as soon as she has squeezed as much money out of the Republicans as possible. However, if Pelosi is resisting relief to American people simply because it will go out with Trump’s name on it, she clearly has no real conviction to help people through this crisis.