Strike a Deal on Pandemic Relief Right Now

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The prospects for a new coronavirus relief plan are finally improving. To be sure, the months of delay up to this point, and the fact that talks in Washington might even now fail to break the stalemate, are little short of scandalous. But compromise is in the air. Better late than never, leaders of both parties need to seize the opportunity.

A bipartisan group of senators opened a crack in the wall earlier this week, proposing a new relief plan of a little over $900 billion — less than the $2.4 trillion that Democratic Party leaders had previously insisted on, and more than the roughly $500 billion favored by the GOP leadership. Senator Mitt Romney said, “We’re getting more and more support from Republicans and Democrats.” The Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of moderates in the House, has backed the measure. President Donald Trump has also suggested he’d support it.

The respective leaderships in Congress have expressed interest and willingness to talk further. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the plan a basis for negotiation. But as yet neither side has committed to getting it done. That isn’t good enough.

Democrats should follow President-elect Joe Biden’s lead. He got it exactly right, saying the compromise proposal wasn’t enough but but he saw it as a down payment that would deliver prompt relief. When Biden takes office in January, the issue can be revisited and further support arranged. With the existing relief measures expiring, those in need of financial help can’t wait.

Make no mistake, the Democrats have been right all along to argue that a bigger proposal would be better. With Covid restrictions tightening again, a measure of between $1 trillion and $2 trillion is needed — enough to provide renewed unemployment assistance, help for struggling businesses, and adequate support for financially stretched states and cities.

Even so, the country would see settling for the compromise as the best that could be done under the circumstances, not as a Democratic defeat. And if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others still refused to budge from their woefully inadequate proposal, the blame for the impasse and its consequences would lie squarely where it belongs, with Republicans in Congress.

This saga has dragged on far too long already. Come to terms immediately and get this measure passed.

Editorials are written by the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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