On the latest Facing the Future, I was joined by U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Concord Coalition Executive Director, Bob Bixby, and Concord's Policy Director, Tori Gorman. We discussed the bipartisan COVID-19 relief legislation that Cassidy and Hassan co-sponsored and helped negotiate, including what's in the package, why the relief is important, the progress made by this bipartisan working group, and the future of this legislation.
[Note: Portions of this week's Facing the Future can be seen in the video clips posted below.]
A bicameral, bipartisan working group, composed of nine U.S. Senators and members of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, rolled out two proposals, totalling $908 billion. One provides assistance to families workers and small businesses, while the other focuses on state, local, and tribal assistance.
Senators Hassan and Cassidy explained what kinds of relief and aid were provided in the proposals they helped co-author. They said that the focus was meeting immediate needs and providing interim support ahead of a new administration and Congress implementing their own strategy and plan in the new year.
Policy priorities include expanded unemployment insurance, rental assistance, and support for small businesses, schools, hospitals, health care providers, and more.
“One of the things we’ve really focused on is what kind of financial challenges are the people most impacted by the pandemic facing, and how can we get individual assistance to people in need,” Senator Hassan said.
She added that she hopes this bipartisan working group becomes a model for tackling other important issues as well.
Senator Cassidy said, “I think one thing I’ve learned here is that you can go outside the committee process if it’s a big enough issue and the committees are not making any progress … something like this, where clearly Congress was not functioning but the need was huge, is where folks on an organic level can come together and make a difference.”
Bixby joined the program to discuss the proposals and their future in more detail, such as whether they should be considered a be-all and end-all package or a starting point for relief.
“I think it probably is a starting point, but it’s an essential starting point,” Bixby said. “One of the key things is, is it passable, and something needs to pass. You’re kind of at the point now where it’s the art of the possible.”
Bixby was quick to emphasize that fiscal responsibility has not gone the way of the dinosaur, and that the time will come to focus on growing long-term budget deficits and rising national debt, but this proposal appears on course to meet key needs during a health and economic crisis and maintains a timely, targeted, and temporary approach.
“When you’ve got a national emergency like this … you’ve got a problem and you’ve got to deal with it in a big way,” he said. “This group has done it in a very serious, responsible manner.”
Hear more on Facing the Future. I host the program each week on WKXL, NHTalkRadio.com (N.H.), and it is also available via podcast. Join me and my guests as we discuss issues relating to national fiscal policy with budget experts, industry leaders and elected officials. Past broadcasts are available here. You can subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Google Play Music or with an RSS feed. Follow Facing the Future on Facebook and watch videos from past episodes on The Concord Coalition YouTube channel.