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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

One of the pandemic's few silver linings came in late March, when elected officials put aside partisan differences to quickly pass a massive, across-the-board economic stimulus. Six months later, we're back to the old normal — even though many remain desperate for assistance.

Driving the news: The Senate on Thursday rejected a so-called "skinny bill" championed by Republicans. It would have included a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses, school funding, and virus-related liability protections for businesses.

What's happening: America is more than a month past the expiration of expanded unemployment benefits and the initial PPP program, and the "V-shaped recovery" remains little more than a cable news talking point. Yet there is no urgency on either side of the aisle, and it's unconscionable.

  • Democrats want a much larger package, something closer to the House bill they passed back in May. They've already demonstrated a willingness to pass some piecemeal spending — namely the U.S. Postal Service funding bill — but hypocritically refuse to do so on broader stimulus, even though they agree with features like the revamped PPP, which could help keep countless small businesses from going under.
  • Republicans seem uninterested in meeting Democrats near the middle, and knew the skinny bill would be rejected before cynically proposing it. President Trump almost never raises the issue during speeches or other public comments, instead pretending the pandemic and its consequences are in the rearview.
  • Some on Capitol Hill would like to attach stimulus funding to a continuing resolution to fund the government past September, but few seem optimistic that it will happen.

The bottom line: The CARES Act was hardly perfect, and efforts like PPP were marred by both logistical hiccups and some alleged fraud. But it was, on balance, a vital lifeline for the country — one where politicians didn't let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

Go deeper

Updated Dec 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump signs two-day funding bill to avoid government shutdown

Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump late Friday night signed the continuing resolution that will fund the federal government through Dec. 21 and temporarily avert a partial shutdown.

Why it matters: The 48-hour stopgap will also give lawmakers the weekend to resolve outstanding issues with a $900 billion coronavirus relief package and $1.4 trillion long-term spending deal.

24 mins ago - World

U.N. envoy resumes push for cease fire in Gaza

Tor Wennesland. Photo by KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP via Getty Images

Tor Wennesland, U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process , has been holding extensive talks with both Israel and Hamas over the past 24 hours in an effort to restore peace, a diplomatic source tells Axios.

Driving the news: The source said Wennesland spoke on Sunday to Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat and other senior Israeli security officials as well as Hamas officials and Egyptian intelligence officials.

3 hours ago - Health

CDC director says politics didn't play a role in abrupt mask policy shift

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky told Fox News Sunday that political pressure had nothing to do with the agency's sudden announcement that fully vaccinated Americans can go without masks in most indoor settings.

Why it matters: Emerging evidence shows vaccinated people are less likely to transmit the virus, as COVID-19 cases and deaths drop. But the responsibility to uphold the abrupt policy change falls to individuals and businesses.