Editorial: Increased stimulus checks sorely needed

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 2, 2021

Recently, Congress passed COVID-19 relief legislation, which included $600 stimulus checks to every American.

While any stimulus funds are welcome news to the public, the reaction to the news was hardly celebratory.

The amount was meager, at best, and many pointed out it would barely pay a month’s rent for most people.

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President Donald Trump has said he would rather see the amount raised to $2,000, a proposal that was agreed on by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and many members of both parties.

The proposal quickly passed the Democratic-controlled House, where it was voted for overwhelmingly by members of both parties, then needed to be passed by the Senate.

Trump had signaled he would sign it upon passage.

But, typical of Congress, it was not going to be that easy.

While some Republican senators in Trump’s party had signaled they would be willing join Democrats and there were possibly enough votes to pass the proposal for $2,000, it was blocked from even coming to a vote by a single senator, Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, the majority leader for Republicans. (He was joined the next day by Pennsylvaia’s Pat Toomey)

McConnell spun his obstruction by saying that he was willing to “begin a process,” for $2,000 checks, but the catch — he wants to attach them to other legislation that does not enjoy wide support, namely efforts by conservatives to change liability laws for tech companies.

In doing so, he has knowingly created a poison pill, dooming the passage of relief.

By taking a “clean” proposal that focused solely on the increased checks and tangling it with other legislation, McConnell is taking part in the kind of legislative chicanery that has made Congress’s favorability rating on par with kidney stones with most of the public.

People are hurting and help is needed.

After nine long months of COVID-19 and its fallout, not only do their constituents need the relief, but the added funds circulating would go a long way to getting the economy moving again.

An additional $2,000 could be used as a down payment on a car, could go to pay off medical bills, could fund home repairs or be put to a number of uses, which would then benefit others in local economies.

This is no time for political games or dragging it out with an unnecessary process and unrelated legislation.

The stimulus proposal marked a rare instance of members of both parties set to work for the common good and one senator should not be able to sabotage such an effort.

McConnell needs to be opposed by his fellow Republicans on this.

It is high time that other members of his party, who are seen as more moderate, such as Ohio’s Rob Portman, speak out against this move.

And if McConnell is still unrelenting, his party should seriously consider a new leader in the chamber.