Republicans want to erode public support for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package by presenting it as too high, too bloated, and too much unsustainable public spending for a pandemic that’s nearly over.
Senate Republicans planned to vote against the relief bill in lockstep on Friday, taking the calculated political risk that once Americans hear all the information, they would see the large-scale expenditures for vaccine delivery, unemployment insurance, state funding, and other outlays as excessive. Reviving their 2009 critique of Barack Obama’s expensive recovery from the financial crisis, they expect their opponents to reap electoral gains, similar to how the previous campaign helped the House Republicans gain control.
It’s a tried and true strategy, but it comes at a difficult and unpredictable time for the nation. If more people are vaccinated, Americans are seeing glimmers of hope on the one-year anniversary of the deadly epidemic. New strains of the virus, combined with a still-shaky economy, could set off a new round of infections, lockdowns, and deaths. More than 500,000 Americans have died as a result of the war.
Biden’s solution to the pandemic has received widespread public support so far. According to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 70 percent of Americans support the Democratic president’s handling of the virus response, including 44 percent of Republicans.
Biden and his Democratic allies caution that now is not the time to back down on aid; it is better to risk doing too much than doing too little. They claim that cutting back on the rescue costs risks stalling the recovery, as many believe happened in 2009.
During Friday’s session, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, said, “When the house is on fire, you don’t argue over how much of the fire to put out.”
She said, “You do whatever it takes before the crisis is over.” “And you do it as quickly as possible.”
The debate in Congress represents a deep schism in the world about how to control and eradicate the pandemic while also returning the country to normalcy. Nearly 10 million jobs have been lost, and 11 million households are on the verge of being evicted. Although Democratic leaders traditionally favor social distancing constraints and gradual reopenings of schools and workplaces, congressional Republicans have become more eager to get back to business as quickly as possible.
The United States is not alone in facing a challenging challenge that has significant implications for the scale and nature of assistance needed to avoid further economic disaster.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who is leading his minority party to vote “no,” said Biden’s 628-page bill is a Democratic “wish list” that doesn’t meet the needs of the moment because the pandemic is over and the economy is on the verge of a “roaring recovery.”
He said, “We are already on track to recover from the crisis.”
Republicans claim that Congress has already funded historic amounts to combat the pandemic, and that large-scale spending would overheat the economy, causing inflationary fears, though economists disagree. They have an opportunity with voters who are suspicious of Biden’s handling of the economy, according to polls.
Last spring, after the initial round of funding, the huge $3 trillion CARES, was approved, McConnell expressed similar optimism by putting new spending on hold. Around that time, then-President Donald Trump promised that by Easter Sunday, Americans would be back to normal.
However, with Texas’ announcement this week that it will work to eliminate face-mask standards, one of the main tactics public health officials claim helps stop the spread of the virus, old political divisions and fears have resurfaced. In May, Texas was one of the first states to reopen, easing restrictions at the start of the pandemic’s second wave, which lasted all summer.
Parts of Biden’s package are too high, according to Jason Furman, a former chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers who now teaches at Harvard. He thinks the $350 billion in aid to states and cities should be cut or have tighter waste controls. However, he claims that the greater economic risk is not doing enough.
Vaccines alone, he claims, are insufficient to ensure a stable economy. Households are struggling, and companies are dealing with shifting customer buying patterns. Individuals receiving the Biden kit will receive $1,400 in direct payments, which will be phased out for those making more than $80,000 a year.
By email, he said, “When you sum up the financial needs of households and the shortfalls facing governments, the American Rescue Plan overfills these.” “But no law is perfect, and as I previously said, if the downside is that families get a little more money in one year, that is a lot better than if Congress fails to act.”
Republicans are fighting back against Biden’s go-it-alone partisan policy, which relies on Democratic votes for passage.
The bill was pushed into an all-night reading by Senate Republicans on Thursday, delaying the start of debate.
They started proposing what would be hundreds of amendments on Friday, with the aim of changing the bill but also highlighting expensive costs and unpopular clauses. One of the Democrats’ own changes, to cut extra jobless compensation from $400 to $300 a week, was causing divisions within the party and more delays.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who pushed the bill’s reading into the early hours of Friday morning, used maps and props to help Americans comprehend the $1.9 trillion bundle.
Before launching into examples, he said, “The human mind can’t really contemplate what a trillion is.” A stack of $1 notes, he said, might stretch the distance halfway to the moon.
Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana, a Republican, said he hopes to change public opinion by the end of the process.
He said, “We’re going to reveal every ugly detail of it.”
The White House is well aware of the difficulties that lie ahead. Biden’s team includes many veterans of the 2009 fights.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said at the time that they didn’t do enough to clarify the benefits to the American people in ways that “people would be talking about at their dinner tables.”