Getting legislation passed in both chambers of Congress is and has always been a game of give-and-take, compromise, meeting halfway. Neither Democrats nor Republicans will get everything they hoped for in a given bill, but it is to be hoped that the hammering out process leads to something positive for the nation and for We the People.
For months, Congress has made half-hearted attempts to come to terms on a new stimulus bill that would help people and small businesses survive the winter of this pandemic. Yes, I did say half-hearted, for the two sides have been miles apart and no concerted effort was made that I can see to come together, to put aside their own petty grievances and do their jobs. To an extent, that was the fault of Donald Trump, who insisted he would sign no stimulus bill that didn’t guarantee immunity from liability for companies who failed to take proper precautions to protect their employees during the pandemic. I’m sure there were other hurdles and stumbling-blocks, but this was the one that stuck in my craw. WHY should businesses be allowed to put their employees in danger and be held harmless when one or more employees contract the coronavirus because there was no company-wide mask mandate, or staff was not kept adequately distant from one another?
So, the democrats gave in on the employer liability immunity issue and progress was made. One barrier after another was somehow knocked down and eventually it looked like a deal would be struck. The Republicans, however, had one demand from which they absolutely refused to budge. It’s referred to as the “three-martini tax deduction” and what it does is allows business executives a full 100% tax write-off for the cost of business lunches, including alcoholic beverages, tips, etc. Until now, the limit has been a 50% deduction.
Initially, the bill did not include stimulus payments to individuals, but thankfully Senator Bernie Sanders stood his ground and demanded a $1,200 payment to each person earning under $75,000 per annum. Through compromise, it was chiseled down to $600. The country thanks you, Senator Sanders! Would that others had his cojones.
Negotiations continued and ultimately Democratic leaders agreed to the provision in exchange for Republicans agreeing to expand tax credits for low-income families and the working poor. Yes, folks, this is how these things work, but seriously … more than 3,000 people in this country are dying of the coronavirus every damn day, 20 million are out of work, lines at food banks stretch for miles, millions are in danger of losing their homes, and the bill to provide minimal assistance might well have failed if Democrats hadn’t agreed that the taxpayers … those of us who actually PAY taxes … should foot the bill for some billionaire executive to take another billionaire executive out to lunch and drink the finest vodka in the place? This is the very definition of the word ‘unconscionable’, and it is obvious, if it weren’t already, that the Republicans in Congress do not give a damn about the people of this nation unless we have millions of dollars.
At any rate, after the Democrats caving on some things, the bill has now been passed by both House and Senate and is on its way to the desk of Donald Trump for his signature. The effect for the average person is to be a $600 stimulus check, similar to the one earlier this year, but only half the amount, $300 enhanced unemployment benefits for 11 weeks, extension of eviction protection until January 31st, some rental assistance, and a 15% increase in food stamp benefits. All indications are that Trump will sign the bill, but at this stage of the game, given his blatant lack of concern for We the People, nothing would surprise me.
I am reminded of that old Schoolhouse Rock video …