• Amber Thomas

Phase 4 Stimulus – Not So Fast!

The ink was barely dry on the $2.2 trillion CARES Act when discussions began on a Phase 4 stimulus package. However, the bipartisanship that carried the CARES Act through the legislative process largely disappeared the day after it was signed. Each party is now pushing its own plan absent input from the other. 

The first plan floated by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., focused on strengthening the nation's infrastructure. It is essentially their 5-year, $260 billion plan introduced in January with an additional $10 billion targeted for community health centers, educational institutions, and housing. President Donald Trump signaled his support by backing his 10-year, $2 trillion plan that is a major priority for his administration. Congressional Republicans balked at supporting either proposal during the COVID-19 crisis.

The conversation immediately shifted away from a massive infrastructure package and toward another round of direct disaster relief along the lines of a "CARES Act 2.0." That's where we're stuck right now since neither party agrees on the details. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., failed to pass $250 billion in new money for the Paycheck Protection Program – money sorely needed because high demand is quickly depleting loan funds. At the same time, Senator Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., tried to win approval for the Democrats' plan to spend an additional $250 billion on hospitals and local governments along with the small business aid. His measure also failed. Each senator tried to pass his bill by unanimous consent but was blocked by the other. Under unanimous consent rules, it only takes one Senator who votes "nay" to defeat it.

Up next, Congress and the administration continue to push their priorities for inclusion in Phase 4. Generally, the GOP wants to fully implement the CARES Act before another round of stimulus, citing the need for fixes to the newly enacted law plus additional funding for its programs. Nevertheless, members are pressing ahead with proposals that include another round of stimulus checks, pay increases for frontline workers, and more support for small businesses. Stay tuned for updates on what's moving forward on Capitol Hill. 

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