Across America today, huge numbers of Americans are suffering from joblessness, hunger, evictions, foreclosures, small-business failures and an inability to afford the health care that could save their lives during the most deadly health crisis in a hundred years.
In a column for The Hill on Dec. 9, calling for President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt MORE to lead a national movement for COVID-19 relief, I warned that the $900 billion package then under discussion was “too damn small.”
It was. It is.
The $900 billion plan has now been passed by the House and Senate and is waiting a signature or veto by President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE.
Two events have happened since the bill was passed and sent to the president.
First, Trump, who was not even remotely a player in negotiations for the $900 billion plan, has now (correctly) criticized the pending $600 relief checks as far too small and proposed the amount be raised to $2,000 for individuals.
Second, House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Emanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing Fixing Congress requires fixing how it legislates MORE (D-Calif.), who has long called for a larger stimulus package, said she will call up the proposal for $2,000 for a vote in the House; Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerFixing Congress requires fixing how it legislates Beware the tea party of the left Bottom line MORE (D-N.Y.) is offering strong support.
Let me offer here a plan to help the gigantic number of Americans who are today enduring the excruciating pain caused by the COVID-19 virus.
First, President Trump should immediately sign the pending $900 billion plan to get that money to those who urgently need it in the shortest possible time.
Second, Trump should state when he signs the bill that he wants to work with leaders and members of both parties in the House and Senate to increase the total size of the relief checks to $2,000, or whatever figure higher than $600 that all parties can agree on.
Third, President-elect Biden should publicly support both passage of the current bill and expedited negotiations for larger relief checks and call on Trump and congressional leaders to follow up, in good faith, immediately.
Fourth, Speaker Pelosi should announce she would welcome discussions with President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFixing Congress requires fixing how it legislates McConnell: GOP should focus on future, not 'rehash' 2020 Hoyer: Democrats 'committed' to Oct. 31 timeline for Biden's agenda MORE (R-Ky.) to seek larger stimulus checks and schedule a vote on the floor of the House on the proposal for new $2,000 checks.
From Trump’s point of view, if he sincerely wants larger checks and will work diligently and honorably to achieve them, he should be praised. However, if he treats this like a short-term stunt that he does not seek to enact, between ridiculous and delusional attempts to overturn the 2020 election, his $2,000 proposal would be, and should be, treated as no more than a fraud against those who suffer.
Let’s hope Trump does the honorable thing and earns the praise he would be due, on this one issue, at this one time.
From Pelosi’s point of view, the no-baloney position would be to promise a full vote on the floor of the House with all members voting. What she actually suggested in her tweet was that she wanted to bring up the $2,000 proposal under unanimous consent. That alone would be wholly unacceptable because it would be guaranteed to fail, since at least one Republican member would object to unanimous consent.
Let’s hope Pelosi will do the right thing to help those who are suffering excruciating pain.
If Trump acts honorably and sincerely, and Pelosi acts honorably and sincerely, the public support would be so huge — and the pressure on Senate Republicans would be so great — that there would be a very strong chance that after the pending bill is quickly signed into law, the second bill could also be enacted into law with the net relief checks being markedly above $600.
There are many reasons that so many Americans feel anger, distrust or cynicism toward Washington today. It would be a great day for America, and a great day for countless millions of Americans suffering excruciating pain, if our leaders at this one time, for this one purpose, can enact a plan to help our people lessen their pain, and not exploit their pain for political gain — which is why so many Americans hate Washington today.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.