The motto of the United States Congress these days should include the phrase “Unfinished Business,” because there is an awful lot of it on the table at a time when many small businesses and millions of Americans face an uncertain Christmas season.
Of course, there was a hotly contested national election this fall, and it still goes on with two U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia in early January. But the list of what the Democratic-led House and Republican-led Senate could and should have accomplished before now is very long.
Let’s not force Americans to wait. The resolution that puts off a budget agreement until Dec. 18 gives a new deadline for action.
Thanks in part to U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, a leader in seeking a compromise on COVID-19 relief, there is a chance at action but too many decisions have waited too long.
For many economists, the compromise bill that Cassidy champions with senators of both parties is not enough, although it does promise important elements of relief — among them, enhanced unemployment benefits through April and a new round of paycheck protection loans for businesses.
The latter is a vital bridge to a better economy, and the senators pushing the compromise want to soften the expense by using unspent money from earlier programs this year. We think unemployment checks will stimulate the economy more at a time when it’s still not at all clear that vaccines will get us out of the woods.
Louisiana’s delegation is also concerned that Congress will not act on hurricane relief and recovery, vital particularly for southwest Louisiana, hit by two major storms this year.
For Cassidy, relief for state and local government is a key issue. He represents greater New Orleans, hard-hit by the collapse of tourism. But it’s a hard sell with some of his colleagues on the GOP side because of vast amounts of new borrowing needed this year to fund coronavirus relief.
We worry about that, too, but in an emergency — and it is for the plumber and the waiter down the street, more than for the Wall Street CEOs and some other constituencies — the government must act to preserve the social contract that says work should be rewarded. Millions are without work, many now for more than the six months that experts say really hurts a worker’s chance of returning quickly to the marketplace.
More volleys are being exchanged among various parties to the negotiations, but President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden have indicated they want a deal.
It won’t be a perfect bill, but as Biden indicated, a deal is better than none. Whatever comes out of this Unfinished Business Congress, we hope it makes a difference and is passed before Christmas.