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He has not yet taken the oath of office, but like every president-elect before him, Joe Biden is already at work on the issues at hand. In addition to a surge in COVID-19 cases, Biden must contend with another looming recession.
The New York Times reported that Biden's own advisors believe the economic situation will worsen without another stimulus package. Biden is calling on congressional Democrats to strike a new stimulus deal, and quickly.
If Congress can't pass another stimulus bill during this lame-duck session, approximately 12 million Americans could lose their unemployment benefits by Dec. 26. The fear is that as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, and more businesses close, millions more may be forced to file for unemployment. All this while a temporary ban on evictions is set to expire on New Year's Eve.
The hardest hit by both COVID-19 and unemployment are people of color -- the same people who turned up on election day to call for change.
Biden is pushing Congress to throw a life preserver to millions of Americans drowning in troubled economic waters. However, the two parties continue to be at odds. Issues include the amount of aid needed, the extent of unemployment, and state and local government funding. The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives has pitched two bills, one worth $3 trillion and the other worth $2.2 trillion. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed $500 billion in aid, while other GOP Senators claim that too much has already been spent.
Here's where we stand today: Congress is away for the Thanksgiving holiday and will not be back in session until Monday, Nov. 30. When they return, they need to agree on a federal spending package before Dec. 11 to avoid a government shutdown.
As with earlier in the year, some had hoped stimulus funds might be rolled into the funding package. However, this now looks unlikely. Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed to confirm that stimulus talks are likely to occur independently of a new federal funding package.
In other words, even if Congress passes legislation to keep the government up and running, there's still no guarantee they'll come to an agreement on another stimulus package. Americans cannot count on a second stimulus check to hit their bank accounts any time soon.
How did we get here?
The House and Senate have spent months tossing a potential stimulus package back and forth like a hot potato. Neither party wants the other to get credit for its passage. The hope was that partisan differences would be less important following the election -- especially if one party won control of both the House and the Senate.
By Nov. 7, most votes had been counted, and Joe Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election. But then, two things happened: President Donald Trump refused to concede defeat, and both political parties turned their attention to Georgia. Two Senate seats will be decided in a runoff election there in January. Until then, the GOP retains majority control of the Senate.
That means a stimulus package can only become reality if enough Democrats and Republicans agree to the legislation. Pressure from Biden may help push a deal over the line, but it still boils down to how much the two sides are willing to compromise.
Becoming president of the United States is a big job, even when the world still appears to be on its axis. It's tough to envy the problems President-elect Joe Biden has inherited. At this point, his best hope may be a Congress that can set differences aside long enough to do what's best for the country.