President-elect Joe Biden Nov. 16 expressed support for the $3.4-trillion HEROES Act bill approved by Democrats last spring providing billions in aid to states and localities as well as assistance to essential workers, but indicated he would support a compromise measure by urging legislators in both parties to "decide to cooperate."
Addressing the media in Wilmington, Del. after a meeting with business and labor leaders including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Mary Barra, the chief executive of General Motors, the former Vice President said, "Right now, Congress should come together and pass a COVID relief package like the HEROES Act that the House passed six months ago. Once we shut down the virus and deliver economic relief to workers and businesses, then we can start to build back better than before."
'No Mysterious Force'
In attempts to reach a compromise last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reduced the Democrats' proposal to $2.2 trillion in cost, and Senate Republicans countered with a $1.6-trillion proposal. That gap could not be bridged, however, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell later said he would not approve more than $500 billion in aid.
Mr. Biden told reporters, "The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It's a conscious decision, it's a choice we make. If we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate."
Two days earlier, President Trump expressed similar sentiments, tweeting, "Congress must now do a Covid Relief Bill. Needs Democrats support. Make it big and focused. Get it done."
But the President frequently shifted positions on a stimulus bill over the past six months, several times echoing Mr. McConnell's position that he did not want it to serve as a bailout for states and localities whose financial problems were the result of mismanagement that preceded the coronavirus's devastating effect on the economy.
When he was hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19 last month, he urged quick action on a stimulus bill, but reversed himself a couple of days later after being discharged.
Sorely Needed Here
New York has been particularly hard-hit economically, with the state looking at a deficit approaching $60 billion and the city with a $9-billion budget gap. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority stated Nov. 18 that without $12 billion in Federal relief, it would be forced to reduce its workforce by more than 9,000 and cut service by up to 40 percent.
Support for a large stimulus package came Nov. 18 from Richard Ravitch, a key player in helping the city avert bankruptcy in 1975 who later, as head of the MTA, persuaded Congress to authorize funding that helped revive the city transit system after years of deferred maintenance had hampered service, with lengthy delays caused by derailments and train-door malfunctions.
Writing in the New York Times, he noted that cities and states throughout the nation collectively "employ about 23 million essential workers—teachers, police officers and firefighters. They contribute over $3 trillion to the nation's gross domestic product."
Too Essential to Fail
"Now imagine," he continued, "that one of the most important industry players was New York City, which employs about 325,000 workers. They, along with the city's 3.5 million private-sector workers in finance, entertainment, communications and other industries, add $1 trillion annually to the GDP."
He then asked, "Would the federal government allow such an enormous industry to fail?"
After recounting Washington's help in the city securing a $2.3-billion loan guarantee 45 years ago, he concluded the op-ed article by writing, "Now, New York is one of many cities in trouble—not because of overspending, as Republicans imagine, but because of a badly managed pandemic. There is no alternative other than federal assistance. President-elect Biden must start planning how to address this crisis now, and act as soon as possible after he is inaugurated."
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