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Senate must recognize the national emergency

Senate Republicans can’t be serious, can they, about entertaining the possibility of leaving for an August recess without acting on a stimulus bill?

On Thursday, Americans learned their economy shrank at an unprecedented annualized rate of 32.9% in the second quarter of 2020. But then again, they’ve been living it.

And as emergency aid programs that were created in March to help Americans survive the dramatic drop in economic activity now end, millions of citizens will be left without the resources to pay their bills and place food on their tables.

More relief is necessary in the form of an additional rescue package. Democrats recognized this back in mid-May when they passed a $3 trillion bill aimed at addressing the devastating economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

It was a staggeringly large proposal. It was fully expectant it would be trimmed through negotiations over whatever proposal the Senate produced. But two months passed and the Senate and the Republican president, Donald Trump, did nothing. Now, for two weeks, the White House and Senate Republicans have tried to come up with their counteroffer, but they can’t reach a deal among themselves, never mind find common ground with Democrats in the House.

And now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is seriously considering letting the Senate take its traditional summer break. It would run Aug. 10 to Sept. 7, according to the Senate calendar.

We know Connecticut senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both Democrats, are prepared to stay in Washington. And if McConnell has to coble together votes among willing Republicans and Democrats, then so be it, because this must be about the welfare of the people, not the partisan politics of Washington.

Senate Republicans are unwilling to extend the $600 per week enhanced unemployment benefit atop standard benefits, some proposing $200. They argue, with some merit, that making payments too large can discourage a return to work (not that there are many jobs to return to, for 19 straight weeks more than a million Americans have filed new claims for unemployment benefits).

The compromise seems obvious — a $400 enhancement.

House Democrats would provide $1 trillion for aid to school districts needing safety equipment and to relieve state and municipal governments starved of tax revenue. Republicans so far have offered no such relief, which makes no sense unless their goal is to assure the number of unemployed — now 20 million Americans — rises further and the economy sinks deeper as state and local governments are forced to shed jobs, while shredding social safety nets when they’re needed most.

Do Senate Republicans and the White House recognize this is a national emergency? That the nation risks plunging into depression? Expectations that the nation would get control of the pandemic have been dashed. There will be no quick recovery.

If McConnell lets the senators head home, it will be dereliction of duty that history won’t soon forget.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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