Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Don’t Play Politics with the Coronavirus Response

Mar 22, 2020 | Other Spending

For Immediate Release

Policymakers are currently drafting legislation to mitigate the economic damage caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. An effective response should be enacted quickly and will likely widen budget deficits dramatically. The must-pass nature of this agreement should not be used as an excuse for politicians to incorporate tax or spending provisions that are unrelated to the virus response. The following is a statement from Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

This is a national emergency, and it is exactly the kind of time when we should borrow money as necessary to help deal with this emergency. While it’s unfortunate we are entering this crisis already over-indebted and running trillion-dollar deficits, this is not the moment to let our large deficits stand in the way of responding quickly and aggressively.

However, this is not an invitation for legislators to add unrelated measures or pet projects. Preventing a health and economic calamity will require an unprecedented level of spending, but each dollar must still be spent wisely. The emphasis of legislation should be to strengthen public health measures, provide support for families and businesses most impacted by the disruptions, and limit damage to the overall macroeconomy. Policies must be legitimately temporary, enacted in a timely manner, and as targeted as possible without compromising the first two criteria.

Proposals to create new above-the-line deductions unrelated to the coronavirus, provide blanket loan forgiveness for past student debt, or weaken the base broadening measures enacted as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act have no place in this legislation. If these proposals are worth enacting, they should be passed through the normal legislative process and with adequate pay-fors. They should not come out of the precious dollars needed to address the current health and economic crisis. Unrelated measures that are tucked into the current bill will compromise its credibility and make it more difficult to pass future response measures as they prove necessary. This is a moment to put special interest politics aside and focus only on the emergency at hand.

This country needs the highest level of leadership right now that puts country over party and citizens over special interests. We are depending on our leaders to come together to govern responsibly through these trying times. To do so, Congress must kick the habit of inserting political party favors into must-pass emergency legislation, and focus only on the current emergency. There are many important and sensible measures in this bill and they should be adopted as quickly as possible.

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For more information, please contact John Buhl, director of media relations, at buhl@crfb.org