Opinion | Americans need real economic help, not more theater on Capitol Hill

With the House’s scheduled recess approaching on Friday, fresh hope has materialized, in the form of new and apparently serious talks between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Ms. Pelosi has agreed to reduce the size of a new bill to $2.2 trillion, which is still above […]

With the House’s scheduled recess approaching on Friday, fresh hope has materialized, in the form of new and apparently serious talks between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Ms. Pelosi has agreed to reduce the size of a new bill to $2.2 trillion, which is still above the $1.5 trillion figure Mr. Mnuchin favors but $1.2 trillion less than the House called for back in May. It also happens to be about the amount of fiscal injection likely required to put the economy back on its pre-pandemic growth trajectory within two years, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Mr. Mnuchin and Ms. Pelosi have agreed to continued talks, even as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose GOP-led chamber only mustered a $500 billion bill, dourly noted that the sides are “very, very far apart.”

No doubt there are still major sticking points, including the House bill’s attempt at a one-year repeal of limitations on the state and local tax deduction, a tweak to the 2017 tax bill that would benefit mainly blue states and their upper-income residents, as well as the bill’s near-half-trillion dollars in aid to state and local governments, a far higher figure than Republicans have been willing to accept. Yet Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Mnuchin both noted broad areas of consensus, including the need for another round of individual payments to households, as well as assistance to schools, airlines and small businesses. Both sides actually have a political interest in providing more help to the public, should they choose to view things in that light.

Ms. Pelosi said the House is prepared to pass her bill as early as Wednesday night to “formalize” it as a “proffer” to Mr. Mnuchin, which we must hope is not just more political theater to help swing-district members of her conference who have been eager for something to campaign on. If it’s not, and Mr. Mnuchin himself is not simply putting on a show of reasonableness to help his boss, President Trump, avoid blame, then there really may be chance for a deal. Given the country’s needs, both sides should do everything possible to make sure this is the final act, complete with a happy ending.

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