It would be nice to have some quiet time. A few days, or better, a few weeks where the country doesn’t face a major challenge.
Of course in a pandemic that’s not going to happen. And lawmakers in Washington may make things worse.
This is Trahant Reports.
The deadline is December 11th. That’s when the federal government — once again — will run out of money. Three things could happen. First, Congress could enact a real budget for the year that already began in October. Second, there could be another temporary solution, a Continuing Resolution, in the language of Washington. Or finally the House, the Senate, and President Donald Trump could fail to reach a deal altogether. And if that happens … then once again the federal government will go into shutdown mode.
During a pandemic, no less.
So far the House and the Senate have different spending approaches. And after a deal is reached, then President Donald Trump will have to agree too. That might be complicated in a time when he still claims he won the election … “by a lot.”
This year’s spending bills are thorny because of the election results. Democrats want to spend more money on the priorities of the next administration. And, conversely, Republicans are hoping to protect as many of their policies as possible. Think border wall and immigration.
Congress has a lot on its agenda beyond the immediate budget. There are loud calls for a new pandemic relief bill.
And states and tribes are looking for money to distribute vaccines, a task that’s huge given the size of the country. Imagine reaching 100 million people or more so they can take one or two shots.
More than 125 economists have called on Congress to act soon. They wrote: “The COVID crisis has caused some of the most significant and unequal damage to the U.S. economy in modern history, leaving families and businesses alike struggling to get by. Unless policymakers act quickly to respond to the crisis at the scale necessary, we risk the damage to the economy lasting much longer than necessary, particularly for those at the bottom who have been hit the hardest.”
Tribes, and some states, could also use more time to effectively distribute the already funded
In the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act. That $2.2 trillion stimulus package signed into law in late March, was by all accounts a successful factor in mitigating the economic impact of COVID.
But tribes have asked for more time. Building up an infrastructure, while fighting the pandemic itself, has been particularly challenging for smaller governments. The money is supposed to run out at the end of the year.
So far there doesn’t seem to be a lot of consensus about what to do next. Democrats are eager to pass something significant, while Republicans in the Senate remain cool to anything costly.
Congress returns to work this week and the deadlines are coming fast.
I am Mark Trahant.