Congressman Steven Horsford knows Nevadans are hurting from the economic and health crisis brought on by the pandemic.
Reelected this month to the U.S. House of Representatives, Horsford said his primary objective is advocating for legislation to help “crush the virus.”
He’s returning to Congress during one of the most unprecedented and contentious times in American history: Coronavirus cases are spiking to levels previously unseen, bringing both personal and economic devastation, and President Donald Trump is increasing partisan division with baseless claims about the validity of his loss in the general election.
“Every side needs to come to the table, and — I like the word President-elect (Joe) Biden used — cooperate,” said Horsford, a Democrat representing the 4th Congressional District.
Congress on Monday began its lame-duck session, the last before Biden is inaugurated in January and the makeup of both chambers of Congress shifts. Members are attempting to compromise on much-needed coronavirus relief legislation, which could extend jobless benefits, bring aid to hard-hit nursing homes, help small businesses with more federal funding, forgive business loans of $150,000 or less, and more.
“Those are things that I know would make a real difference for the people in Nevada and across the country that we’ve heard from based on the work that we’ve done to date,” Horsford said.
But Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have reportedly not held talks on a new relief package. The sides are divided on how much money they want to pump into relief, as the Democrat-controlled House in October passed a $2.2 trillion relief package, while Senate Republicans have signaled they want to spend around $500 billion.
Trump called for passage of a coronavirus relief bill in a Twitter post, stating it needed to be “big and focused.” Horsford said the Trump administration during its final weeks in office needs to be part of discussions around the bill.
“I’ve lost an election, I know how hard it is, but they need to come to the table and cooperate,” Horsford said.
Aid would be a lifeline for Nevada, which has seen historic unemployment during the crisis and is bracing for more hardship. With coronavirus cases surging, a second statewide business shutdown would bring additional financial and emotional stress. Restrictions are already happening in other states.
The first priority is stopping the virus spread, where help is also on the horizon in the form of a vaccine. Pfizer reports that its vaccine has a 90% effectiveness rate, and Moderna has said its is 94.5% effective.
“My focus is to make sure (the vaccine) is made available to everyone, and that it is free to everyone,” Horsford said. “This is not something that the rich and well-connected need to have and everyone else needs to fend for themselves.”
Once the virus spread is slowed and the economy starts to rebuild, “everything else falls into place — health care, education, climate change, all of these other pressing issues,” Horsford said. “We have to, as they say, walk and chew gum, be able to work on multiple issues, at the same time.”