Emily’s Weekly Political Scoop: The COVID-19 Bill, Vaccination Efforts, and Biden’s Economic Team

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Emily Landolfi, Staff Writer

Are you wondering what is going on with everything COVID-19? In this article, you will find information about the COVID-19 bill, the latest on vaccination efforts, and who Biden has nominated for his economic team in hopes to get the country out of the economic crisis. With new information being released every hour, mass confusion and uncertainty is predicted, so let’s break it down into three critical topics.  

COVID-19 has taken over our lives, and it is crucial to get the necessary updates on the government’s plan of action. The COVID-19 bill has caused a mass amount of pressure for both Democrats and Republicans as the second wave spreads throughout the country. According to the CBS article “Pelosi and Schumer Back $908 Billion Bipartisan COVID Proposal as Basis for Talks” by Grace Segers, as of December 2nd, Nancy Pelosi and Senate Chuck Schumer have announced their support for a $908 billion bipartisan coronavirus relief plan as the base for future negotiations. The legislation includes $160 billion for local government, $288 billion in funding for the Paycheck Protection small business loan program, $82 billion for education, $16 billion for the spreading of vaccines and testing, $180 billion for unemployment insurance, and the opportunity for states to create individual policies on legal liability. Pelosi and Schumer stated, “In the spirit of compromise we believe the bipartisan framework introduced by Senators yesterday should be used as the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations. Of course, we and others will offer improvements, but the need to act is immediate and we believe that with good-faith negotiations we could come to an agreement.” 

However, Senator Mitch McConnel, alongside other Republic Senators, proposed smaller legislation early in the year worth $500 billion, primarily focusing on small businesses, schools, and liability protection but was denied by Democratic Senators for the lack of unemployment benefits and fundings for local and state governments. Republican Steven Muchin, the United States Secretary of the Treasury, believes that Donald Trump will approve the Republican proposal. Muchin stated, “The president will sign the McConnell proposal he put forward yesterday, and we look forward to making progress on that.” Considering that Democratic Senators have already rejected his bill twice, the likelihood of Pelosi accepting it is very low. 

Relating to the COVID crisis, twelve million Americans will lose extended unemployment benefits by the end of 2020 due to relief programs’ expiration (Segers). According to CNBC article “Unemployment Benefits: What We Know (and Don’t) about the $908 Billion Covid Relief Bill” by Greg Iacurci, lawmakers have decided to finalize the $908 billion relief bill, but with time passing us by, the logistics for $300 weekly benefits and extra aid for the self-employed, gig (independent contractors), and jobless workers is unclear. By funding three months of $300 weekly payment and an extension of benefits for PUA (pandemic unemployment assistance) and PEUC (pandemic emergency unemployment compensation) would total to around $140 billion, $40 billion less than the $180 billion initial unemployment insurance discussed prior. According to the live coronavirus search engine on Google, 15.1 million cases, and roughly 285,000 deaths depress the country. The heightened pressure to rush the relief bill is only increasing as every second goes by.

The infamous COVID-19 vaccine has been talked and questioned about since the beginning of the first wave. According to the BBC article “Covid Vaccine Update: When Will Others Be Ready?” by James Gallagher updated on December 8th, the Pfizer/BioNTech has developed a 95% effective RNA vaccine that has been given to about 43,000 people with no concerns. To get the vaccine, you would have to get the first dose, wait three weeks, and then get the second dose. The UK, the first country to approve the vaccine, is being given about 40 million doses. 90-year-old Margret Keenan became the first patient to receive the vaccine on December 8th at University Hospital in Coventry. However, this vaccine will have to be stored at a temperature of -70C, and the process of the delivery chain is not a quick one.

Pfizer/BioNTech is not the only one making vaccines. Oxford University/AstraZeneca has made one that stops 70% of people from developing symptoms, has displayed a robust immune response in the elderly, and could increase protection by 90%. The company Moderna also has a vaccine that claims to protect 94.5% of people. Both vaccines do not need to undergo any cooling temperatures, so the importation and distribution will be much easier. Trials from other companies, including Russain Sputnik V, Jassen, China’s Wuhan Institute of Biological Products and Sinopharm, and Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute, are expected to conclude testing and release results throughout this week. Although the vaccine’s progress has been quick, trials still need to prove their safety. Then, regulators need to approve them, and researchers need to determine how long the protection lasts (Gallagher). The safety of the people in this country is no joke. It has not been taken lightly regarding the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

President-elect Joe Biden has nominated seven economic advisors to make up his economic team to guide him through the struggles in the economy due to COVID-19. Biden has selected members he has worked with prior, but progressives want to see new and fresh faces. According to the Fortune article “Meet the Seven Key Economic Advisors That Will Help Joe Biden Lead through the COVID Crisis” by Nicole Goodkind, he is looking to nominate Janet L. Yeelen as Treasury secretary, Wally Adeyemo as deputy Treasury secretary, Cecilia Rouse as chair of Council of Economic Advisers, Heather Boushey and Jared Bernstein as Council of Economic Advisers, Neera Tanden as director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Brian Deese as director of the National Economic Council. Additionally, New York Times article “Transition Highlights: Biden Plans to Pick Lloyd Austin, Ex-Iraq Commander, for Defense Secretary” by Helene Cooper and Johnathan Martin explains Biden’s expectancy to nominate Lloyd Austin as Defence Secretary, making him the first African-American defense secretary. 

Although some of his nominees are expected to be elected like Janet L. Yeelen, who has gained D.C. leaders’ trust over the years, others are not like Neera Tanden, who has posted controversial statements on her social media. According to the NPR article “Who Is Neera Tanden, Biden’s Most Controversial Cabinet Pick?” by Tamara Kieth, Reoublican feel like Tannden will be radioactive and Bernie Sanders supporters believe she is to centrist. The article provides an in-depth transcript of why Tanden is controversial and why Biden chose her. Additionally, Biden has stated, “I know times are tough, but I want you to know that help is on the way. From the most unequal economic and job crisis in modern history, we can build a new American economy that works for all Americans, not just some.” Now that he has announced his nominees, we have to see whether they get elected and how this will shape the economy’s state for the next four years.  

This week has introduced news about COVID-19 ranging from the bill to vaccination to Biden’s economic team nominees. The virus is still in effect, and the second wave is sweeping through the nation. 

 

Works Cited

Cooper , Helene, and Jonathan Martin . “Transition Highlights: Biden Plans to Pick Lloyd Austin, Ex-Iraq Commander, for Defense Secretary.” The New York Times , 2020, www.nytimes.com/live/2020/12/07/us/joe-biden-trump. 

Coronavirus – Google Search, g.co/kgs/8k8LHB. 

Gallagher, James. “Covid Vaccine Update: When Will Others Be Ready?” BBC News, BBC, 2 Dec. 2020, www.bbc.com/news/health-51665497. 

Goodkind, Nicole. “Meet the Seven Key Economic Advisors That Will Help Joe Biden Lead through the COVID Crisis.” Fortune, Fortune, 7 Dec. 2020, fortune.com/2020/12/07/biden-economic-team-treasury-janet-yellen-omb-neera-tanden/. 

Iacurci, Greg. “Unemployment Benefits: What We Know (and Don’t) about the $908 Billion Covid Relief Bill.” CNBC, CNBC, 7 Dec. 2020, www.cnbc.com/2020/12/07/unemployment-benefits-whats-in-the-908-billion-covid-relief-bill.html. 

Keith, Tamara. “Who Is Neera Tanden, Biden’s Most Controversial Cabinet Pick?” NPR, NPR, 2 Dec. 2020, www.npr.org/2020/12/02/941610796/who-is-neera-tanden-bidens-most-controversial-cabinet-pick. 

Segers, Grace. “Pelosi and Schumer Back $908 Billion Bipartisan COVID Proposal as Basis for Talks.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 3 Dec. 2020, www.cbsnews.com/news/covid-relief-908-billion-bipartisan-proposal-pelosi-schumer/.