The local area’s representative in the federal government is optimistic about the passage of another stimulus package to combat the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) held an interview with The Advocate & Democrat Monday consisting of various topics, including the coronavirus response and when to expect another stimulus package.
Congress has been in gridlock for some time over the next package, but Fleischmann said he believes things may be beginning to turn.
“With the implementation of the executive order by President (Donald) Trump dealing with student loans and dealing with unemployment, I think that actually helped the process,” Fleischmann said. “Democrats in the House and Republicans in the Senate were at an impasse as to what should be done, how much should be done. All of the fundamentals, I think, were properly addressed in the first four bills in a more bipartisan way, more practical way, that I think the American people could look at and say this is a good use of funds.”
That impasse is likely to be broken soon, though, Fleischmann predicted.
“We have a situation now, based on the executive order, where (Speaker of the House Nancy) Pelosi and (Senate Minority Leader Chuck) Schumer have lost a lot of leverage,” Fleischmann said. “Issues that I think were very important — stimulus checks, forbearance on student loans, unemployment dollars — those issues were taken off the table, I think, very adeptly by President Trump. This sets the tone for very fertile conversations between the House and the Senate.”
However, while he thinks it may have led to the beginning of a solution in this situation, Fleischmann cautioned that he doesn’t want to see executive orders continue to be used to break stalemates in the legislature.
“I don’t necessarily like to see government by executive order,” he said. “President Obama used it a lot, President Trump uses it a lot, President Roosevelt used it a lot. I think we’re going to have to get back, at some point in time, to some semblance of regular order.”
He added that this year was a particularly tough time for the coronavirus to spring up.
“It would have been a terrible thing to happen anytime, but it’s especially bad to happen in the year of a national election,” he said. “Every decision that was going to get made was going to, sadly, have political overtones. It will fail when we have divided government.”
Fleischmann said he expects this bill to be “closer to $1 trillion” and he hopes it will get passed before the end of the year.
Prior to the impasse over this potential bill, Fleischmann said he was happy with the way the branches of government worked together to get the previous relief bills through.
“The federal government did an outstanding job — and I mean the House, the Senate and the White House — to work together with the four comprehensive coronavirus stimulus packages so far,” he said.
More locally, Fleischmann said the State of Tennessee has received about $3 billion and he thinks the state government has “used that well.”
Fleischmann argued that there should be more direct funding of smaller cities, however, much like how Nashville and Memphis can apply directly for aid.
“I argued unsuccessfully for smaller cities like Athens to be able to go directly and apply for aid,” he said.
Fleischmann added that he’s also happy with how the state government adjusted its budget as the shutdowns took place.
“This thing is not going to be a one budget cycle problem,” he said. “It’s going to be a two or three year fiscal budgetary problem. The State of Tennessee has a very large rainy day fund, but I did not want them to deplete this fund.”
Fleischmann also noted that the local area handled the reopening of businesses and schools well.
“Given the totality of the circumstances, I applaud your local government for the way they’ve handled it,” he said. “This is unprecedented territory. It’s not something there was a blueprint to deal with it. We’ve got to get back to work, back to school, back to playing football. We just have to be safe about it.”
Looking ahead in terms of the coronavirus, Fleischmann encouraged people to be safe as they continue forward.
“Continue to be careful,” he said. “Live your lives in as normal a manner as possible. Use social distancing, wear a mask, do the types of things that show concern for others as well as yourself. It’s going to be here for a while.”