They had one job – COVID relief – and proved their dysfunction
They had one job.
They includes President Trump, his administration, the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The job was economic relief to businesses and individuals whose lives were impacted so harshly by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
How they handled this job tells you why public approval of Congress is at 15 percent, according to the latest Gallup poll. It also tells you why the national debt is soaring toward $30 trillion, indebtedness that requires our country to write checks to the credit holder, China, compromising our nation’s safety.
The heart and soul of this job was simple: Send significant checks to Americans to tide them over until a vaccine propels the nation toward normalcy, extend benefits to those whose jobs were hijacked, and support thousands of businesses so they can remain financially capable before returning to routine operations.
This could have been done in June. Or July. Or August.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not want President Trump to get credit in an election year for helping the American people. She said two weeks ago it was now okay to go forth with a COVID relief bill because Joe Biden is going to be president.
Those are her words, not mine. There are portions of the final bill passed by the House this week that Pelosi turned down 40 times previously, according to Rep. Fred Keller, who represents much of our region and voted against the original bill two weeks ago because of its many flaws.
But that’s only the start of the detachment by elected leaders.
The $600 payment that was in the original bill was laughably small for those economically impacted by over-the-top business shutdowns and the lack of activity wrought by the virus. Instead of political posturing, all parties should have spent the summer coming up with a system that pinpointed who was impacted economically and given them larger checks instead of writing a check to everyone.
But that makes too much sense.
So does passage of a bill that sticks to the one job. So the monstrosity negotiated by the Trump administration and Queen Nancy grew from one $900 billion bill to a $2.3 trillion, 5,593-page blob that representatives had five hours to allegedly read before the vote.
Hidden in those pages was support for two National Mall museums, $10 million for gender programs in Pakistan, $2.5 million for internet freedom, $4 billion for New York mass transit, $15 billion for grant programs for live entertainment venues, $7 billion toward expanding broadband access, $1.4 billion for construction of a wall on the southern border, a rule saying postal service can no longer deliver e-cigarettes, $250 million over five years for Palestinian economic aid, and $101 million to combat wildlife poaching and trafficking.
You are allowed at this point to raise your hand and ask what those things have to do with coronavirus economic relief.
The answer is nothing. But Congress managed to attach national defense and a bill to keep the government open to the COVID relief, and so you get this.
Everyone deserves criticism for this all-too-common practice, including the administration that was negotiating with Pelosi and others for months.
Ever the outsider, President Trump’s blood finally boiled over when he saw the final list of junk disguised as COVID relief.
So he turned over the card table and all the little chips, refusing to sign the bill and instead calling for $2,000 checks and elimination of all the wasteful line items.
His appeal was late. His delivery was clumsy. It did not attract embrace from traditional Washington.
It also was what should have been done. And if he had demanded this in August, it would have been called political and quickly dismissed.
If you want to know why 75 million people voted for Trump, this is why. He won’t let Washington get away with normal.
And normal Washington has been dysfunctional for a long time.
So, in the final days of a miserable year, the Senate debated a proposed $2,000 in relief. The deliberators, who have not missed a paycheck during this pandemic, wrangled over a much too expensive bill, full of fat that rewards lobbyists and other countries with checks we are borrowing money to sign. Trump redlined a fat removal list – some of it his own waste – but normal Washington never says “no” to the Christmas cookies involved in its spending bills. Discussions, much too tardy, included limits on big tech and questionable presidential election practices. That, friends, is what dysfunction looks like.
But that $2,000 in relief? It was $600 two weeks ago.
And normal Washington, including both chambers of the House and even the president’s own people, was fine with it.
Only one element of the multi-sided conversation changed.
The very imperfect person that normal Washington can’t wait to get rid of turned over the card table.
David F. Troisi is retired as editor of the Sun-Gazette.