Last week there were some glimmers of hope for the future from the depths of the bickering, spiteful, partisan swamp in Washington, D.C.
It seems like something that is a relic from another era. A throwback to a simpler time: Legislators on Capitol Hill setting aside ideological differences to work together on something that will really make a difference in the lives of their constituents.
But that is exactly what Americans saw last week when Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., joined forces with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to finally attempt to break the Trump-Pelosi-McConnell stalemate on a second round of stimulus checks for the American people.
Once negotiations stalled out over the size of an aid package, the philosophical differences in how businesses should be handling the crisis, and other political disagreements, struggling families were left looking forward into a bleak 2021 facing more pandemic-related shutdowns and economic distress with no aid from Congress.
But the unlikely team of allies put forward a simple $350 billion aid package (roughly a third of the size of the more complex bills proposed by either major party’s leadership, and a 10th of what Nancy Pelosi initially introduced) that would provide a $1,200 stimulus check to each adult and $500 for each dependent child — the same amount that was passed in the spring.
No corporate payouts. No regulatory complications. No poison pills. Just a straightforward payment to help financially strapped Americans as quickly and efficiently as possible.
It may seem unbelievable in the current climate that Sanders, a cantankerous far-left democratic socialist who can barely agree with some in the Democratic party, is working with the socially conservative Hawley, who led the Federalist Society at Yale Law School and in his law career worked on the Hobby Lobby religious freedom case.
But Hawley has been signaling his willingness to work across the aisle for weeks, tweeting on Dec. 4 that he would “gladly work w/@AOC and anyone else who wants to help working families. Families and working people in need should be the FIRST consideration in COVID relief, not last.”
This was in response to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, D-N.Y., talking about the Republican Senator to NBC News and saying that she would be “happy to work with that element of the Republican Party” to make direct stimulus payments happen.
If our lawmakers can do it on stimulus payments, maybe there are other areas where the left and right can find populist common ground: criminal justice reform or paid family leave perhaps.
Seeing Hawley and Sanders standing together on a shared priority is a sight we could use a little more of going into the New Year. Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come.