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Federal leaders are scrambling this week to assemble a coronavirus relief package that can earn approval from Congress.
The U.S. House last week approved a nearly $2 trillion package that aims to address urgent pandemic needs along with some of Democrats' long-term priorities. That version of the bill is not set to be taken up by the U.S. Senate.
We urge Congress to do what's doable and pass a narrowly targeted COVID-19 response focusing on direct stimulus payments to individuals, an extension of pandemic-related unemployment benefits and resources for state and local governments to administer vaccines.
In some sense, every issue is related to the coronavirus pandemic. The yearlong ordeal has cut across almost every aspect of our lives and exposed long-standing failures of our political, economic and social systems. Nevertheless, tangentially related measures - such as a national minimum wage increase to $15 - are best considered individually, rather than as part of urgently needed COVID-19 relief legislation.
It would be nice to see our federal legislators actually legislate - propose ideas, debate them on their merits and give them up-or-down votes. Instead, massive bills are the product of high-level, behind-the-scenes negotiations among top officials and a few key swing voters in Congress.
Approving $2,000 checks to Americans was a key issue in pivotal special elections for U.S. Senate in Georgia in January. That was almost two months ago and people are still waiting - two months of rent, child care payments, groceries and other expenses at a time when families are struggling to make ends meet.
Meanwhile, expanded unemployment assistance, which was approved by Congress in last December's relief package, is set to expire this month. Passing a bill within the next two weeks to extend those benefits is imperative.
And some states still are struggling to put together widespread and equitable vaccine plans. Bolstering that effort through federal funding will pay dividends long into the future.
It is a testament to the gross dysfunctionality of Congress that members can't even come together to do basic things that constituents explicitly sent them there to do.
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