Washington (CNN) — At last. The belated agreement of economic aid for the pandemic of US $ 900,000 million that Congress announced this Sunday offers some good news during the brutal year-long Christmas season and short-term help for laid off workers and closed businesses hit by two health and economic crises.
The most optimistic interpretation of the agreement is that despite a tortuous process, a deeply divided Capitol eventually navigated a path toward consensus, driven by a more moderate core of bipartisan senators who catalyzed the compromise in a traditional way.
Steps to extend unemployment benefits, make $ 600 stimulus payments to some adults, collect food stamps and send money to food pantries, accelerate vaccine rollout, and keep businesses like restaurants afloat will make a difference. tangible in the lives of Americans. But it’s not like Congress has a choice, and its delay significantly compounded the pain of many Americans.
The deprivation caused by the latest spike in covid-19 came at a time when some unemployment benefits had already expired and many citizens were facing eviction or starving. New restrictions caused by the out-of-control pandemic are suffocating businesses and threatening to reverse a stalling recovery.
And any idea that Sunday’s breakthrough is a model for a less dysfunctional Washington during a new presidency, next year, is undermined by the way the bitter process of recent weeks revealed vast ideological chasms, suggesting that the disconnect in a fractured political system is getting bigger and more extreme. This was confirmed by the fact that Congress still has to pass short-term spending bills to avoid a government shutdown.
If that weren’t enough, the multiple crises that President-elect Joe Biden will face in January are exacerbated by the final days of the would-be autocrat’s turmoil in the Oval Office. The outgoing president, Donald Trump, did not spend the weekend assembling an emergency response to the growing pandemic or offering condolences to the families of the victims of a disaster that their neglect has greatly worsened. He did not work until the wee hours of the morning lobbying both sides in the Senate and House to overcome differences in accordance with his sworn duty to the American people.
Instead, he escalated his outrageous attempt to crush American democracy. He welcomed his former National Security Advisor, Retired General Michael Flynn, to the Oval Office, a man he forgave for lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia, to discuss Flynn’s unhinged idea of a declaration of martial law to overturn the election result. Trump’s lawyers made a new appeal to the Supreme Court to invalidate millions of legally cast votes in Pennsylvania, a state it lost. On Twitter, the president maintained a corrosive stream of lies about the election, the kind that has already convinced most Republican voters that the election was stolen.
And, perhaps in its most scandalous example yet of prioritizing Russia’s national security interests over those of the United States, Trump acquitted Moscow of his involvement in what could be the worst cyberattack on the US government that his own officials publicly blamed on the Kremlin.
Some signs of hope
Yet a weekend in which the dangers inherent in Trump’s final weeks in power and Washington’s institutional failures were on full display could not completely extinguish the potential for hope that the new vaccines have.
In an encouraging sign, FedEx trucks are already deploying across the country carrying vials of the second COVID-19 vaccine, the recently approved version made by Moderna, for front-line health workers. The head of the government’s vaccine program, Moncef Slaoui, confirmed on sunday in State of the Union, of CNN, that the government would send on Monday 5.9 million initial doses of the Moderna vaccine and two million additional doses of the Pfizer / BioNtech vaccine.
But Slaoui also warned that in the short term, the terrible death toll from the pandemic, which now claims an average of 2,500 lives in the United States every day, will worsen. “There will be a steady increase,” Slaoui told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
‘Exactly what the numbers might be, I don’t know. But unfortunately, they are most likely taller than they are today, ”said Slaoui.
And Biden’s nominee to be America’s next Director of Health Services, Dr. Vivek Murthy, set a far less optimistic timeline for most Americans to get the peace of mind that a vaccine offers than the one he touts. the Trump White House, which is seeking a late credit deadline to divert us from its momentous mismanagement of the pandemic.
While members of Congress and others at the forefront of the priority line are getting the vaccines now, it could be many months before all Americans get the same protection, he said.
“If all goes well, we may see a circumstance where by late spring, people in lower risk categories can get this vaccine,” Murthy said in Meet the Press, de NBC.
But that would really require everything to go exactly as scheduled. I think it is more realistic to assume that it could be closer to mid-summer, early fall, when this vaccine reaches the general population.
Democrats and Republicans fight in Congress to weave the subiside deal
The congressional pandemic relief deal would provide money for the purchase and distribution of vaccines, something that should bring joy to both parties.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who has one eye on two Senate runoff elections in Georgia in January and hopes it will secure its narrow majority, he said the deal was “packed with specific policies that help struggling Americans who have already waited too long.”
But the contentious atmosphere surrounding the deal and the testing times ahead were evident in the way Democratic leaders criticized their Republican colleagues, even as they welcomed the compromise.
“Make no mistake about it, this agreement is far from perfect, but it will provide emergency aid to a nation in the midst of a genuine emergency,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said to the full Senate.
“The agreement on this package could be summed up as better late than never, although I know many of my Republican colleagues wish it never were,” said the New York Democrat.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also accused Republicans of delaying the deal for weeks, though critics say she went overboard by demanding a package that was worth far more than the Republican Party was willing to accept. After all, Pelosi turned down a $ 1.8 trillion offer from the administration before the election, which turned out to be twice the size of the final deal.
Why did it take so long? It’s because we couldn’t get our Republican colleagues to squash the virus, “Pelosi told a news conference Sunday night.
Among the large divisions exposed by the debate over the aid bill are Republican refusals to allow more aid to cash-strapped state and local governments that will be crucial in distributing the vaccine and getting children back to school. Democrats blocked the GOP’s efforts to provide liability protection for companies trying to operate even when the virus is rampant.
Both provisions broke deals for weeks and are sure to resurface when Biden and the Democrats look for another aid package in the new year.
Some Republican senators, after years of complicity with Trump’s policies that exploited the deficit, are now rediscovering their roots as budget hawks that will likely be a severe impediment to the Biden administration. Others, including Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, sought to limit the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending authority in another move that Democrats saw as an effort to reduce the power of the incoming Biden administration.
Those battles can be postponed during the holidays. But they loom among Biden’s many challenges as soon as he’s in the Oval Office.
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