What’s Happening In Washington, DC?

March 12, 2021

Oftentimes, news about what’s happening in the government may be confusing. From words like stimulus package and bills, it’s easy to get lost in what’s happening and why. That’s why we’re breaking it down for you here.

Coronavirus Relief Bill

via Pixabay

If you’ve been watching the news, the words “Coronavirus Relief Bill” has been used quite a bit recently. If you’re wondering what this is exactly, it’s President Biden’s answer to helping the American people after the COVID-19 pandemic has caused havoc and uncertainty for families, schools, businesses, and the economy. This bill, which has also been called a stimulus package and touted as the American Rescue Plan, is a $1.9 trillion proposed spending budget. Big number? Absolutely! But the reason for such a big number is to help provide relief and aid to those who’ve been most affected by the pandemic. For example, families and individuals that meet the requirements will receive money directly from the government and small businesses will receive money to keep their doors open. Funding will also be distributed to organizations helping to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, and larger companies, such as airlines, will receive money to keep their employees employed! It’s a lot of money, but this short-term spend is meant to get people and businesses back on their feet so that the economy grows in the long term.

Before the Coronavirus Relief Bill is signed by President Biden, both the Senate and the House of Representatives must pass it first. In both the Senate and the House, a simple majority is needed to pass this bill. That’s fifty-one votes in the Senate and 218 in the House of Representatives. Both the Senate and the House have passed the bill and President Biden signed the bill earlier this week.

Equality Act

In February, the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act. This act would make it illegal for businesses to discriminate against people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ). It’s now up to the Senate. If the Senate passes the bill, President Biden will sign it into law.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act. Public Domain

Background: In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law. It was a law that made it illegal for organizations, such as businesses and schools, to discriminate against someone based on their race, skin color, religion, sex, or national origin. In 2020, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act also protects the LGBTQ community.

George Floyd Justice In Policing Act

The George Floyd Memorial outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis, Minnesota
via @Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0 @Lorie Shaull

Last summer, a Black man named George Floyd was killed by police while in custody. As a result, Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the United States with protesters demanding police reform. Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Bill, which would make police officers more accountable for their actions and misconduct, as well as limit the ways in which they can detain suspects. The bill is the first step in reforming the current police system. Now, it’s up to the Senate. If the Senate passes the bill, it’ll be signed into law by President Biden.

Background: Last summer, a series of police-involved incidents resulted in the senseless deaths of Black men and women. These deaths prompted people from across the country to call for changes in law enforcement, as well as other parts of government where systemic racism has been an issue for centuries.