Partisanship stifles Congress’ response to COVID-19

The most recent stimulus package was needlessly delayed and features unnecessary riders. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has done much to upset the lives of Americans over the past couple weeks, and it does not seem like it will be letting up any time soon. 

The impact on the ordinary citizen should not be understated during this crisis, and steps need to be taken to consider the well-being of the nation and its citizens.

The government has taken a large step in the right direction with the $2.2 trillion stimulus package that was passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump on Saturday. It will provide aid to struggling citizens and businesses throughout the country. It is the largest stimulus bill in U.S. history.

During times of crises, people should be coming together to ensure that we all get through this as quickly and safely as possible, and no one should embody this sense of unity more than our elected officials. While this would have been the perfect time for Congress to bring together the country, this was not the case with the creation and passing of this bill.

The process of passing this package was riddled with partisan politics and issues which should have been left out during such trying times. There were several inclusions to the package which would have altered regulations to industries affected during the pandemic that sparked debate. Most notably was the attempt by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the House Democrats to put in wording that would have required airlines to start offsetting emissions by 2025. 

Partisan additions to the stimulus package included funding for several organizations focused on the arts and theater as well as television and radio, and a large portion of the package, $280 billion, was dedicated to assisting larger corporations with business tax cuts. The estimates are according to the Committee for a Responsible Budget. 

While these inclusions may seem harmless, hospitals and the Federal Emergency Management Agency stated that the $180 billion ($100 billion for hospital and public health funds)  they were allocated won’t be enough to handle the demand for supplies needed by health care workers. 

Partisanship also kept an earlier version of the bill from passing in the Senate on March 22, because of claims by the Democrats that the stimulus package was a corporate bailout and did not provide enough protections and regulations for how businesses could spend funds. As a result, the bill was held for more deliberation and would not be passed in the Senate until March 25. 

Because of the changes made in the Senate, the bill had to return to the House for another vote five days after the first. During this five-day span, the confirmed cases in the U.S. went from 33,404 to 103,321, based on numbers provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In times of crisis, every day counts, and the inclusion of partisan politics in deciding legislation can only harm the U.S. and the people who live here. If our legislators could completely set aside their partisan views and focus on only what is necessary to combat the issues at hand, this stimulus package would have been passed sooner and we would be closer to receiving the aid that we need.

Timothy Foley is a sophomore majoring in history and political science.