CBS19: Local lawmakers push for COVID-19 relief

CBS19, KATHRYN YOUNG

The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security bill was passed in March and Congress has passed nothing since then in the way of relief. They’re working on it and hope to have a last minute deal, but nothing yet.

The CARES Act was the largest economic stimulus bill in U.S. history, but some of its funding will soon dry up as 2020 comes to an end.

Law makers have also not passed a budget, instead continuing to pass stop-gap measures, leading to big questions about if Congress can be effective.

“It’s important to say we are months past when we should have delivered a relief bill,” said Democratic 7th District Representative Abigail Spanberger.

Lawmakers and political analysts alike say its time for a new coronavirus relief bill.

“I think we probably will achieve it, we may be able to do it now, it should be done immediately, it should have been done months ago,” said Larry Sabato, director of the UVA Center for Politics.

5th District Republican Representative Denver Riggleman agrees.

“They’ve forgotten about the people, they’ve forgotten that people have elected them, and they’ve forgotten that they work for the people, they don’t work for the Senate Majority Leader [Mitch McConnell], they don’t work for the president,” Riggleman said.

Which leads many to ask a larger question – with such an overwhelming need, and lawmakers in support of passing a bill, why can’t it get done?

“It has to do with partisanship, it has to do with the polarization that has taken place in the country, which doesn’t really permit Democrats to work with Republicans or Republicans to work with Democrats,” said Sabato.

Spanberger says she has been working to pass bipartisan legislation, but it continues to get held up, and its not just coronarivus relief.

“We have in the House of Representatives voted on hundreds upon hundreds of bills, so passed hundreds of bills out of the House of Representatives, and hundreds of them have been bi-partisan, so Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives have agreed on those and voted in support of these bills,” Spanberger said. “Some of the challenges that we face is that Leader McConnell, the Majority Leader on the Senate side, chooses not to bring many of these bills forward.”

Sabato says bipartisanship has not been a priority among government leaders.

“The relationships between the leaders of the two major parties and their ability to work together have diminished to the vanishing point,” he said.

Sabato says letting representatives in the House of Representatives and the Senate know whether or not there is support for a bill may be key to solving this backlog.

“It all comes down, partly, to what we as citizens do – do we let our representatives know that we want something done, that times are horrible for people,” he said.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Central Virginia say now is the time to bridge the divide.

“It’s dire, it’s dire and the need for us to take action has never been greater,” Spanberger said.

“You’re a constitutionally elected representative of the people of that specific district,” Riggleman said. “Do your jobs.”

Spanberger says a COVID-19 relief bill could be passed very soon, and Senator McConnell has said Congress will not go home for the holidays until a bill is passed.

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