Washington, DC – The following is a statement from the Bipartisan Policy Center on the legislative negotiations over a proposed COVID-19 relief package:
Today’s meeting between President Joe Biden and 10 Republican senators is a welcome sign. The public health emergency demands aggressive action and tens of millions of Americans need relief now. Significantly, a bipartisan agreement can get critical relief to the American people in February, whereas the budget reconciliation process will not be completed until March. We recognize that negotiations may not succeed and do not suggest pausing, or in any way slowing down the reconciliation process as these negotiations take place. The window of opportunity here is days, not weeks.
Last week, BPC proposed a roughly $1 trillion package that targets relief where it is most urgently needed. These priorities include vaccine distribution and other public health measures, extending enhanced unemployment insurance, additional small business relief, another round of more targeted direct payments, combating hunger, preventing evictions, helping child care programs, and filling the most critical gaps in state and local government finances. Encouragingly, these provisions align with the core measures in both the Democrats’ and Republicans’ proposed responses. Proposals not directly related to COVID relief, or that would dampen the economic recovery, were excluded.
The Republican package does not provide aid to state and local governments and does not include a policy change to raise the federal minimum wage. We urge negotiators to focus their energies on developing provisions for limited state and local aid. The critical challenge for economic recovery is getting people back to work. State and local aid will have this effect.
Expansion of the Child Tax Credit is another difference between the packages, but in this case, it is a provision that historically has substantial bipartisan backing. Whether in this round of negotiations or in a later economic recovery bill, the CTC is an area where common ground is achievable and needed.
We recognize that it will be difficult to overcome the divisions and resentments that define our current politics. Partisan gridlock on emergency aid is not an option, and we must acknowledge that this fourth major relief package is not the final effort needed to get our nation back on its feet. Moreover, while better than inaction, the reconciliation process is significantly limited in its application. The possibility of our government occasionally operating as it is designed would have profound benefits for the nation.