Obama chief economist says Democrats should accept smaller coronavirus relief package if necessary

Former President Obama's chief economist said on Sunday that Democrats should accept a smaller coronavirus relief package if necessary in order to get at least minimal relief to Americans. 

Former White House Chief Economist Austan Goolsbee told CNN’s “Inside Politics” that he’s “not an expert on the political negotiations” but he said he hopes that Congress can agree on a relief package soon because Americans are “really hurting.”

“It’s not jumpstarting growth," Goolsbee, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, said, explaining why the coronavirus money is relief, rather than stimulus. "It’s just keeping people from being evicted, keeping businesses from shutting down permanently from what was supposed to be a temporary shock.” 

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"So if they have to accept half a loaf, then they should accept half a loaf, and then let's try to get another half of a loaf," he added. "But right now is really touch and go, and I wish both sides could see that."

CNN’s Manu Raju noted that 26 million Americans say they don’t have enough to eat and 6 million Americans say they are at risk of eviction or foreclosure in the next two months. 

“There’s a great risk that we could stall out or even have a double-dip recession if we continue to let this virus rage out of control like this,” Goolsbee said. “And in an environment like that where you got millions of people literally saying they can’t put food on the table, there’s got to be some relief.”

Goolsbee’s comments come after coronavirus relief talks between the White House, Republicans and Democrats have stalled for months and many of the provisions in a massive relief bill passed this spring are poised to expire. Republicans and Democrats have been unable to agree on both the topline spending figure and the specifics of what to include in the bill.

The White House proposed a $1.6 trillion coronavirus package last month, which was promptly rejected by Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema Overnight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Democrats suffer blow on drug pricing as 3 moderates buck party MORE (D-Calif.), who said it didn’t offer enough.

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"This isn't half a loaf," Pelosi told Bloomberg at the time. "What they're offering is the heel of the loaf."

House Democrats have called for a $2.2 trillion relief package prioritizing federal unemployment benefits, state funding and a second round of stimulus checks. 

But Republicans have said that is too much money, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' Capito grills EPA nominee on '#ResistCapitalism' tweet Hassan launches first ad of reelection bid focusing on veterans' issues MORE pushing for a $500 billion bill that would focus on aid for schools and small businesses.