Rep. Bryan Steil doesn’t seem to get it.
With the economy in a free fall, the Janesville representative voted against a coronavirus relief bill Saturday, citing a provision he fears could burden small businesses. This issue typically would warrant hearings and prolonged debate, but the nation doesn’t have that luxury right now. The bill contains much-needed measures beyond the sick leave provision Steil questioned, including guaranteed free coronavirus diagnostic testing and a boost for food assistance programs. Thankfully, most of Steil’s Republican colleagues were on board and passed the bill by an overwhelming 363-40 vote.
It now heads to the Senate, where Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson raised objections similar to Steil’s. Meanwhile, the party’s leader, President Trump, has green-lighted the bill, and on Tuesday, his administration put forth a new stimulus package totaling $850 billion.
Republicans have always turned to Trump for direction in the past, and both Steil and Johnson supported him through the impeachment process. That these two would oppose Trump during this moment of national crisis seems unfathomable, and yet Steil’s vote Saturday suggests as much.
The economy needs a massive injection of cash. Anybody who’s been watching stock markets crash and scrambling to find toilet paper in grocery stores recognizes the economy’s prospects are deteriorating not by the month but by the day—by the hour, even.
We call on Congress to act quickly to pass a stimulus package on the order that Trump is proposing. Congress members won’t get as much time as they’d like to deliberate and consider the long-term implications of their actions. But the greater danger is inaction, with the economic slowdown morphing into a full-blown financial crisis. When a cash crunch turns into an insolvency problem, that’s when all hell breaks lose. Congress must erect a firewall to keep the outbreak’s effects from spreading into the banking system, which could happen in a tidal wave of corporate defaults and bankruptcies.
This is no time for the kind of petty partisanship that’s prevented Congress from addressing critical issues over the past four years, such as immigration and health care. Members must resist the urge to demonize their political opponents. They need to work together to both stem the coronavirus outbreak and restore confidence in the economy.
Democrats should heed this advice, too. Mary Jonker, chairwoman of the 1st Congressional District Democrats, called Steil’s vote against the coronavirus relief package “callous” and “cold-hearted.” She’s trying to score points ahead of the November election.
We don’t consider Steil these things. His decision was perhaps the result of Steil’s naiveté as a freshman member. In the coming weeks, he’ll need to abandon many of his conservative talking points and prepare to acquiesce to bailouts for Wall Street to Main Street alike. The government’s spigot will need to open like it did in the midst of the 2008 housing crisis.
In times of crisis, Americans count on the federal government to take decisive action. They also demand politicians set aside their partisan grievances for the good of the whole nation. We expect nothing less from both Steil and Johnson.