The coronavirus stimulus bill the Senate is finally expected to pass today—following unconscionable delays and toxic partisanship from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—will help. However, as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday, it is just a drop in the bucket of what is needed. The big question right now is if congressional Republicans are going to respond to the ongoing demands that this crisis will require.
"What does it mean for New York state?" the governor asked. "It means $3.8 billion. $3.8 billion sounds like a lot of money, but we’re looking at a revenue shortfall of [as much as] $15 billion. This response to this virus has probably already cost us $1 billion, and it will probably cost us several billion dollars when we’re done." Cuomo said that he "spoke to our House congressional delegation this morning, I said to them 'this doesn’t do it.' I understand the Senate theory and the Republican theory but we need the House to make adjustments." He pointed out that the House bill gives the state $17 billion.
A handful of Senate Republicans, including of course Lindsey Graham, are throwing a wrench in the works on passage of this bill, saying the UI provisions from Democrats will incentivize companies to lay off people/incentivize critical workers to quit.
It's not just blue states saying more needs to happen. Hunger Free America issued a press release highlighting the missing Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program funds. "As it stands now, for reasons not yet explained to us, the SNAP (nutrition aid) boost proposed by Congressional Democratic leaders was not included in the $2 trillion dollar relief package," CEO Joel Berg writes. "I'm livid about this. This omission will both increase hunger and harm grocery stores, farmers markets, and corner stores. This must be fixed immediately, either by amending the Senate deal to increase SNAP and/or immediately passing a stand-alone bill that does so."
Georgetown Law's Adam Levitin and NYU's Satyam Khanna write in a new New York Times op-ed that relief in the form of loans could take too long to prevent many small businesses from having to shut down, and argue that the "single best thing Congress can do to stanch economic bleeding is to enact as stand-alone legislation a national moratorium on collections against small businesses." That should go for individuals as well, on credit card, student loan, and mortgage debt. A national moratorium on rental evictions needs to happen as well.
There HAS to be more. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is aware of that, saying that this bill "takes us a long way down the road in meeting the needs of the American people," but she has already begun considering the next phase of legislation. That puts the House in the difficult position of trying to determine whether to pass this bill to get what help is in it out to the people as soon as possible, or working to improve it.
The difficulty is entirely because Donald Trump and Republican have insisted on making this partisan. Trump is trying to put an end date on the crisis and Mitch McConnell might very well try to follow him on that path. It's not clear whether McConnell understands that this crisis is going to last for months, not weeks, and will require herculean efforts in response. We haven't seen much in the way of pressure from his Republican conference to take this crisis seriously, possibly a reflection of the bubble in which Republicans still seem to exist when it comes to this pandemic.
It’s not clear yet what the House is going to be able to do; they’re still waiting on the Senate bill text and having internal discussions. What is clear, however, is that there’s going to have to be a real reckoning for Republicans, and soon.