Romney and Manchin: How we compromised on COVID-19 relief

By U.S. Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Joe Manchin (D-WV)

December 15, 2020

Washington Post         

Coming off the most bitter, divisive presidential election (and post-election) in modern American history, expectations have been understandably low for Congress’s ability to agree on anything — even another round of covid-19 relief. Progress has been nonexistent for several months, with talks at an impasse between a comprehensive $2.2 trillion stimulus package put forth by Democrats and a much more targeted $500 billion bill proposed by Republicans. These proposals were denounced and dismissed by the opposing party as dead on arrival.

In mid-November, after months of stagnation, a small group of senators — four Republicans and four Democrats — convened for a socially distanced dinner hosted by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). In addition to breaking bread, we traded ideas on how to break the stalemate. We agreed to keep talking. What followed became a marathon: four weeks of hours-long Zoom calls, often multiple times a day, with the goal of crafting an emergency relief bill. We always understood that our bill was not going to be the final answer, but we knew it would be necessary to carry the American people through the early spring and prevent our nation’s health-care crisis from becoming an economic catastrophe.     

We started with the emergency priorities we agreed on — including some measures in the Cares Act that were set to expire this month. Millions of Americans lost their jobs this year through no fault of their own, and with pandemic unemployment assistance running out as the virus rages on, jobless Americans and their families are set to lose a critical lifeline right before the holidays. We agreed there should be an extension. And there was unanimity on the need to provide sufficient funding to ensure efficient distribution of covid-19 vaccines, support testing and tracing programs, and support front-line health-care workers.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) saved an estimated 2.3 million jobs and kept the lights on for thousands of small businesses during months of slashed revenue. With many shops, restaurants and mom-and-pop stores on the brink of closure again as new lockdowns and restrictions loom, there was consensus on jumpstarting PPP to allow those hit hardest to apply for a second forgivable loan.

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