Bipartisan ‘Problem-Solvers’ Helped Push COVID-19 Relief Bill Through Congress

Tuesday, December 22nd 2020, 5:31 pm


As soon as next week, Oklahomans who qualify could see the latest $600 stimulus checks, courtesy of the U.S. Treasury, deposited in their bank accounts. Small businesses hit hard by the pandemic will be able to apply for more financial help through a renewal of the popular Paycheck Protection Program.

President Trump still has to sign the latest pandemic relief bill passed by Congress late Monday night.

This latest round of pandemic aid, which also includes extended unemployment benefits, education funding, and rental assistance, will be a welcome salve for many who are struggling, but reaching the agreement to make it happen certainly wasn't easy.

Just a couple of weeks ago, it was looking increasingly likely that the 116th Congress was going to fail to deliver any more relief to the American people. It took a largely unknown group of bipartisan lawmakers -- the so-called Problem Solvers - to change the odds.

"Without the Problem Solvers, we wouldn't have reached a stimulus agreement," said Rep. Kendra Horn, (D) OK-5.

Congresswoman Horn, who lost her bid reelection in November, is one 25 Democrats who, together with 25 Republicans, make up the moderate Problem Solvers Caucus. The group has been pushing party leaders to work look for common ground since the summer and spearheaded the latest push in early December by proposing a $908 billion compromise, which served as the foundation for the package approved Monday night.

"That's what it takes to get things done," said Horn. "No one got everything they wanted, certainly it was not a perfect agreement, but the things that are in there we'll make a difference."

In a statement, Senator James Lankford said, "the process to get to this final bill has been the ugliest I've seen in my time in Congress."

Still, Lankford joined the majority of the delegation in voting for the $2.3 trillion combination spending bill-relief package. The only Oklahoma member to vote no was Rep. Markwayne Mullin, (R) OK-2. In a video he posted on Twitter, Mullin said the relief package was too expensive, and the 5,000-plus page bill arrived too late.

"Literally, we had a matter of few hours to read it," said Rep. Mullin. "I don't blame those who voted for it, but how in the world do you expect me to vote for a bill that there's no way members of Congress had time to read?"

Rep. Horn said she would have felt wrong to leave without approving relief.

"Yes, there's a lot in it, no, it's not perfect, yes, we have more to do," Horn said. "But the bottom line is we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

This may or may not be the last act of the 116th congress. That depends on whether President Trump makes good on his threat to veto the National Defense Authorization Act. He has until Wednesday to veto or sign it. If he chooses to veto it, lawmakers will be back next week to attempt an override.