One of the Obama administration's top economists, Jason Furman, ripped Republicans for failing to pass a stimulus package amid the coronavirus pandemic. Furman was one of the top economic advisers to former President Barack Obama. In a new interview with Business Insider, he said that "it's baffling" to see lawmakers reach a stalemate on such a vital piece of legislation. He put particular blame on the Republican-led United States Senate.
"I think it's baffling that the White House didn't have a plan," Furman said. "I think it's baffling that the Senate Republicans didn't come up with a plan until the very last week. I think it's baffling that the president and Senate Republicans aren't on the same side."
Furman is not alone in this assessment, as many other analysts have been surprised by the apparent disunity between the Senate and the Trump administration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ignored a stimulus bill passed by the U.S. Congress back in May and waited until mid-July to write his counter-offer. However, as soon as he did so, he faced substantial input from President Donald Trump via his chief of staff, Mark Meadows and the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Having three sides to the argument instead of two threw a wrench into negotiations, as the Senate was already bound to disagree with House Democrats. As the wait wears on, many Americans are increasingly fed up with all three sides of this debate, begging for anyone to agree to a compromise just so that something can be passed, no matter how imperfect. Furman seemed to agree that, at this point, something is better than nothing.
"If there is no package to replace the CARES Act, tens of millions of people will suffer quite a lot from lack of income, inability to pay rent and mortgages and the like. Ultimately, the economy will suffer too in the form of lower economic growth and higher unemployment," he said.
Furman has a particularly strong perspective on these issues since he worked in the White House immediately after The Great Recession in 2008. He acknowledged that some aspects were the same, but said that this case is different because "Republicans are very optimistic about the trajectory of the economy." Furman does not see how this optimism can be genuine.
"The unemployment rate's come down very quickly, and I think they've made the mistake of thinking it will continue to come down quickly so we don't need to do something," he said. "And an important reason the unemployment rate has come down so quickly is a huge amount of economic support that we've had."
The Senate remains out of Washington on a month-long recess, scheduled to end on Tuesday, Sept. 8. The House is back in the capital for an emergency hearing, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claims they will not vote on any stimulus measures while they are there.