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WASHINGTON, DC — Washington politicians appear poised to fail the country once again, agreeing Friday evening to a one-sided and partisan coronavirus bill disguised as compromise. It’s not a shock to any conservatives in Washington and probably isn’t surprising to Republican voters either. They’re used to betrayal. But the suffering men and women who run America’s small and mid-sized businesses might have hoped they wouldn’t be abandoned in a D.C. “negotiation.”
Both political parties brought their relief ideas to the table. Washington Republicans predictably focused on small and mid-sized companies, proposing no-interest loans and a suspension of the payroll tax. Washington Democrats predictably focused on both workers and an unrelated radical wish list, proposing shored-up unemployment, Medicare and food stamp benefits, paid sick leave, and, amazingly, taxpayer-funded abortion. Republicans and Democrats roundly agreed on providing free coronavirus testing.
There is good reason to strike an actual bargain on most of these proposals: While both Republicans and Democrats have plans to relieve their favorite groups, both sides are necessary to bring relief to all who need it. Yet Friday night’s deal includes every Democratic wish except taxpayer-funded abortion and not a single Republican proposal. Those will come later, we’re told. We’re always told that, and it almost never happens.
It’s not about points here. While Democrats are right to get money to help people afford to stay home while sick and to get by when they’ve been laid off, there will be many more lay-offs when small and mid-sized companies with disrupted supply lines and cratering revenue streams go out of business.
Mid-sized businesses — the type you might have never heard of but that employ people all over your town — aren’t getting the no-interest loans they need. Small businesses, which would struggle to get those loans even if they were part of the package, aren’t getting the immediate relief a payroll tax-suspension would provide, despite the president demanding it.
These businesses need anything they can cling to to stay afloat and delay further layoffs. There is nothing for them in this apparent deal, nothing for the blue-collar businessman this country’s middle class was founded on. Even the $50 billion President Donald Trump previously announced for Small Business Administration loans are only good for big businesses who can guarantee it, get the lowered 3.75 percent rate, and work the months of accrued debt into their future projections. These big businesses do not include the entrepreneurs who are bootstrapping to make it for the American dream.
Republicans say they’ll have their day — just after they give House Speaker Nancy Pelosi nearly everything she asked for. “Both [Democrat and Republican] leaders made clear,” The Washington Post reports, “that the legislation agreed to Friday … would be followed by further relief measures. That could, potentially, include some version of the broad payroll tax cut sought by the president.”
Those measures could also include taxpayer funding for abortion, if we’re being honest about all that was left on the table. “You get everything you want and we can work on my asks later” is not how Washington negotiations begin — it is how they end.
“[But] as the crisis spiraled,” the Post continues, “lawmakers felt they needed to act quickly to provide economic relief to affected Americans.”
This sense of urgency does not seem to have been felt by Pelosi, who delayed negotiations Friday by pushing for policies that would allow taxpayer dollars to reimburse labs for abortions. The Hyde Amendment, which blocks taxpayer dollars from funding abortion, has been the norm since President Jimmy Carter’s administration, and nothing about the pandemic suggests any need to force citizens to pay to facilitate abortion — a mortal sin in the church Pelosi crows her adherence to.
Judging by the results of Friday’s negotiations, the Republicans are the ones who felt the urgency — an urgency that caused them to abandon their proposals. Mitch McConnell’s Republican Senate is next up, faced with the option to move quickly or demand their policies be included as well — a delay Democrats would be sure to capitalize on politically.
“While we could have passed this bill on our own, I believe it was important for us to assure the American people that we can work together to manage this crisis,” Pelosi told reporters.
We should indeed be working together, but this is not that. It is a surrender and it is a betrayal.