Congress Passes $900 Billion Coronavirus Relief Bill, Ending Months-Long Stalemate
Speaker 1: 00:00 Finally, there is a $900 billion stimulus package. And in it is a $600 direct payment for many adults in $300 per week and enhanced jobless benefits among many other things. This comes at a time when COVID numbers are surging, businesses are having to close their doors and people are going hungry. It also comes after tough negotiations. The problem solvers caucus, a group of congressional representatives from both sides of the aisle pushed for bipartisan cooperation to get this legislation passed. Joining us is Congressman Scott Peters, a member of the problem solvers caucus, Congressman Peters. Welcome. Thank you, Jay. Thanks for having me. Uh, so I know getting this relief wasn't easy. Can you give us an idea of what's in the bill, especially for working Americans? Speaker 2: 00:45 Sure. I just want to start out by saying that we know people are hurting and our small businesses are suffering and families are struggling to pay the bills and feed their kids. Um, and I think that we share that frustration with our constituents. And one of the things we saw in the problem solvers caucus was after that first bi-partisan cares bell, we just didn't see any progress from leadership. So we came together as a bipartisan group to really promote, uh, what became the framework for this agreement in the house and the Senate. So, um, basically it says, as you mentioned, $600 direct payments to individuals, including adults and children, uh, unemployment supplements. So in addition to what you get from the state, you get an additional $300 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits for an additional 11 weeks that compares to $600 or under the first bill, but $0 for the past year. Speaker 2: 01:41 So we think that's good. There's support for small businesses, uh, in a, in a second forgivable paycheck protection program, uh, there's housing and rental assistance. A lot of folks can't pay their rent and that hurts them. And it does hurt a lot of landlords as well, uh, and investments that tackle the public health crisis. So $20, $20 billion for the purchase of vaccines and a hundred billion dollars in funding for the FDA and health and human services CDC also that we can deploy these vaccines that offer so much promise and maybe it can help get our businesses open and get people back to work. Speaker 1: 02:15 So when will people who need benefits start to see them, Speaker 2: 02:19 Uh, the deadline for the one-time payment to, uh, to go out is, uh, mid January, January 15th, secretary Minutian, uh, he thinks that we can get it out before the end of the year. So that'd be terrific. We wish. And w we wish him well on that. Uh, and unemployment will start now it's perspective. Speaker 1: 02:37 And what about direct aid to cities and States? Speaker 2: 02:41 Well, that was the big thing we, uh, we did not get. And I, um, I think Democrats fought really hard for this Republicans, uh, were expressed the concern extensively that, um, they didn't want to bail out blue States that were in a trouble with pensions. You know, if we're trying to protect employers was the whole rationale behind the paycheck protection program, which I supported. You have to recognize the state local governments are among the biggest employers in the, in the United States. And this puts a lot of pressure on police, firefighters, teachers, uh, who really rely on that. So, uh, we are not done. I think the thing I would say is that, um, I do think it's great that we got something. I think, um, getting anything in, in this, um, in, in the way the Congress is now in this age of polarization is really important. And we had no presidential leadership from president from president elect. Biden has said that this will be a priority of his. So I think we take what we can get today and then, uh, come January, we'll look to be doing more and particularly with a focus on state local government aid, I think will be that the thing that, um, is most certainly needed as well as an extension of, of, uh, support for folks who, who are hurting, um, like through unemployment or Medicaid or for food assistance through snap. Speaker 1: 03:55 You know, I understand, you know, that there are many other provisions in this bill. For instance, there are allocations addressing climate change. Can you tell me about that? Speaker 2: 04:04 So we passed two bills. I'm very confused. And we passed an appropriations bill as well. Um, the appropriations bill, uh, did have some really important, uh, climate provisions. Uh, I think the most important one is for hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs. Uh, HFCs is a, is a super polluted, which has a much, much more damaging effect on the climate in the short run. It doesn't persist. It's a short-lived climate pollutant than carbon dioxide, but, um, but getting rid of HFCs and changing over to ones that don't damage, the climate are really important. We've got buy-in from industry, and finally, we've got a law that's going to send American industry in the right direction. Uh, it's also contains my use at act, which is a carbon capture act. Uh, they use it act supports, uh, techno developing a technology called direct air capture would actually be taking a, a machine that pulls carbon out of the air and puts it into the ground and also, um, provides competitive financial awards for innovative technologies that advanced direct air capture. Speaker 1: 05:04 You know, one thing that's got people outraged about this, um, this aid is, is the three martini lunch tax deduction. Uh, what can you tell us about that and why it had to be included to get this bill passed? Speaker 2: 05:17 Uh, you know, it's, uh, um, it's sort of ridiculous. I, I think, you know, it's one of those things where, uh, you make a compromise and you have to, you have to give some things to get what you wanted. I don't, I don't think Republicans cared as much about unemployment supplements as we did. Um, so what they wanted was a, you know, a deduction for, um, for lunches. That's one that's readily subject to criticism, but I don't think, um, it was enough to say we should vote against the bill. People are hurting. People are, you know, people are living paycheck to paycheck. Uh, and the choice was never between whether we're gonna add $600 to your unemployment or $300 stripped you unemployment is between 300. And, and I was not willing to, uh, to go with serum Speaker 1: 06:00 And, you know, giving, given all of the negotiations that had to take place. Are you personally satisfied with the outcome of this? Speaker 2: 06:07 I'm satisfied that we made progress. I'm not satisfied because we're not done a long time ago. I suggested a mechanism called automatic stabilizers that would have said for, for unemployment, for, um, for, for food assistance and for Medicaid, let's set a formula so that this money would be automatically funded depending on economic conditions. And if economic conditions persisted in a bad way, the money would automatically be funded. And if it, if at one point as we hope, and we expect the economy recovered automatically that that aid would be turned off, that would have prevented a lot of this, but we have to get right back at it, uh, in, in, um, in January, February, because it's not enough. It didn't last long enough. Speaker 1: 06:54 What's your view on why the Senate came around? Some analysts have tied Republican. Yes. Votes to fears of losing the Senate races in Georgia next month. What's your thought on that? Speaker 2: 07:03 It's hard for me to gauge. I just say that we, we found, um, our house group, the problem solvers talk us, which is Democrats and Republicans found a similar group of Republican and democratic senators who wanted to get something done. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to, um, to, you know, be sent to Washington DC. You have this, this awesome responsibility, uh, but not be able to get attention for getting something done. So, uh, I think there's a lot of pressure from the middle, uh, against the extremes, but yes, I'm satisfied with, uh, with where we are today Speaker 1: 07:36 And, you know, you're starting your fifth term in the house. How has the political climate in Washington changed since you first arrived? Or, or was it, uh, justice as fractious in 2012? Speaker 2: 07:46 It's always been fractious. I can tell you that my goal is to find that sweet spot again, where we can compromise where we can, uh, you know, fight with our values, but beyond the same playing field to come out at the end and take half a loaf and go back for the, for the other half later, I think that's what we need to get. I would say that one of the more complicating factors has been the lack of presidential leadership. I mean, president Trump has been extremely divisive. No one would call Joe Biden, a staunch conservative, but he is bipartisan by nature. Uh, he believes that bipartisanship is an objective. It's not an inconvenience. And I think that that's really, um, that holds hope for us to bring this country back together. Speaker 1: 08:29 Do you have any thoughts to share about why the Democrats won the presidency, but lost a dozen house seats in this election? Speaker 2: 08:36 I do. I think, uh, I think we won the presidency because, uh, like I said about Joe Biden, people want, um, someone who has got a record of working with everybody to get things done. I think that's certainly what we see around here. Um, and I think that, um, what president Trump could not have the, uh, the pandemic, any worse. I mean, we're the, we're the worst record of any, uh, essentially any developed nation. Uh, and that's, you know, that's on him. Uh, Democrats need to do a better job of fighting these labels that Republicans have assigned to us like socialists, which I'm not for open borders, which I'm not. Um, and, uh, you know, against the police, you know, I'm endorsed by the police. I want to support the police. I want to get, I want to, I want them to get it right. Uh, but Democrats, um, we got labeled with a lot of unfair, um, uh, unfair criticism. And I think that we're going to have to show by what we pass and what we're really for. And I think that'll be a challenge, a challenge to us. It's certainly something I will. Speaker 1: 09:38 I have been speaking with Congressman Scott Peters, a member of the problem solvers caucus, Congressman Peters. Thanks so much for joining us. Speaker 2: 09:46 Thank you, Jake.