One thing a nation watching nervously as the coronavirus spreads doesn’t need is the usual partisan Washington bickering.
Just look at the reaction to one of President Trump’s first suggestions to bolster workers likely to suffer as industries slow: a temporary payroll-tax cut.
Democrats loved the idea when President Barack Obama proposed it in 2010 in his second stimulus package. Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it a “victory for all Americans,” trumpeting how much it would put back into people’s pockets. Sen. Chuck Schumer complained that reluctant Republicans were “putting politics before recovery.”
But Trump makes the same request, and Pelosi calls it “tax cuts for major corporations,” while Schumer complains, “The president seemed to be focused more on the stock market than the pandemic.”
Word is that the two Democratic leaders, as they meet with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to discuss economic-stimulus plans, have drawn up a one-sided (all-spending) legislative package, with zero input from Republicans. Plainly, the idea is to get the White House to bully the Senate GOP majority into going along.
Really, congressional Democrats and Republicans ought to be able to work out some no-brainers themselves, for example ensuring that everyone can afford coronavirus testing. Vice President Mike Pence just announced that insurers have agreed to waive co-pays and extend coverage. Some program to cover all uninsured (including illegal immigrants — this is about stopping an epidemic) is a must, as is bolstering a health-care system that faces an onrush of patients, many of whom will need ICU beds.
And the economy, and the folks who work in it, can surely use some help. Mnuchin set out some decent ideas before Congress on Wednesday. Tax extensions and deferrals, for example: “We think we can provide over $200 billion of liquidity into the economy by delaying certain tax payments.” And the White House can do that fast, as it wouldn’t require congressional approval.
Compromise is possible, even now. Pelosi and Mnuchin managed to forge a budget agreement late last year, raising the debt ceiling and preventing a federal shutdown. Let’s hope they can repeat it.
Congress should show it’s on the job — canceling next week’s planned recess if necessary to get any key bills passed. Build Americans’ confidence, people.
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