opinion | Congress ponders the next coronavirus relief package. Meanwhile, the economy is declining.


That’s right. Unfortunately, Mr. Powell spoke as Congress began to split along partisan lines over how much more should be spent, when, and for what purposes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has revealed a $3 trillion measure whose key provisions are $895 billion in cash for state, local, tribal and territorial governments and another round of direct payments to households potentially larger than the first and estimated costs cause $290 billion. The bill also includes $3.6 billion into new aid to meet a crucial non-economic need: to help as many voters as possible vote safely in November’s elections.

The huge measure has no chance of passing the Republican Senate and is therefore part political statement, part opening offer in inevitable negotiations with the GOP. Republicans are balking, both because they insist on their own policy priorities, like protecting businesses from reopening from lawsuits, and because they believe there is “no rush‘ (expression of President Trump) to make more spending before the money already approved had a chance to work.

In fact, as of May 8, only about $1.4 trillion of Congress’ total $3.6 trillion in spending related to Covid-19 and tax breaks had actually hit the economy. accordingly the Committee on Responsible Federal Budgeting. (Remarkably, Mr. Powell has yet to activate a $600 billion business lending program, backed by capital given to the Treasury Department by Congress.) It’s also true that the states have already received significant federal aid and that the next installment must be based on carefully assessed needs – particularly given the inevitable difficulties of asking taxpayers everywhere to help states, sometimes wealthy ones, where they don’t live.

Still, as even many Republican senators acknowledge, red and blue state and local governments alike have been hit by revenue and need help, as do households — particularly low-income ones — small businesses and the health care sector. Ms. Pelosi’s bill is expensive and riddled with Democrat policies such as reinstating much of the state and local tax deduction for federal income taxpayers. But it actually left out much of the wish-list of the most progressive members of the House, a bit of restraint Republicans could see as a sign of Ms. Pelosi’s willingness to be pragmatic, as she has been in previous talks. The first reaction of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was to denounce the House bill and redouble its call for protections from lawsuits. Republicans should start talking seriously sooner rather than later. The country’s needs are too urgent to withstand much more partisan posturing.

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