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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.

NASA estimates Tonga volcano exploded with force of 5-6 megatons

A satellite image of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano on Dec. 24, before the eruption. Photo: Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

NASA scientists estimate the power of the Tonga volcanic eruption over the weekend to have been 5-6 Megatons of TNT equivalent.

Threat level: Saturday's eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai volcano and subsequent tsunami killed at least three people. Scientists warn an "ash-seawater cocktail" poses a potentially toxic health threat, and drinking water could have contaminated.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

New York AG alleges "significant evidence" of Trump Organization fraud

Combination images of former President Trump and New York State Attorney General Letitia James. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Scott Heins/Getty Images

New York's attorney general filed a motion Tuesday seeking to compel former President Trump and his two elder children to appear for sworn testimony in her office's civil investigation into the Trump Organization's financial dealings.

Why it matters: Attorney General Letitia James revealed new details in the court filing and a statement on her office's investigation into the Trump Organization's business practices, including a preliminary finding alleging the company used "fraudulent and misleading asset valuations to obtain economic benefits."