Republicans totally miscalculate the moment, think opposing COVID-19 relief is a winner for them
The House Budget Committee advanced the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, on Monday. It combined bills from nine other committees into the budget reconciliation package that will get a final vote in the House at the end of this week, then go to the Senate where it can be passed with a simple majority vote. That part is key, and why lawmakers chose to use the budget reconciliation took for enacting the relief: because you can’t count on any Republican to do the right thing. The right thing in this case is spending $2 trillion on helping everyone as opposed to giving it in tax cuts to the very rich.
Republicans are proving yet again how necessary choosing a path for relief that does not require them really is. Thus far, their only contribution has been to insist President Biden “unite” with them and accept one-third of a loaf with their “plan.” Their toxicity was proved by Mitch McConnell’s forcing Democrats to vote on noxious messaging amendments to get the process underway. Those tactics having failed in stopping the forward motion of the package, Republicans are now insisting their opposition to it is principled and won’t harm them politically at all. It’s almost as if the 2020 election, particularly the Georgia Senate races, didn’t even happen.
This tactic frankly has more of a vibe of leadership trying to convince individual Republicans that they’d damn well better not stray and end up helping Biden, but nevertheless, that’s their plan. “It’s clear Democrats have no interest in approaching COVID relief in a timely and targeted fashion and are instead using the reconciliation process to jam through their liberal wish list agenda,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise told Republican lawmakers in an email Friday, continuing to whip them into opposition.
Various Republican officials and hangers-on are keeping up the message. “House Democrats’ $2 trillion socialist boondoggle puts partisan politics first and fails to address the most pressing needs facing Americans, like getting kids back in the classroom and reopening small businesses,” Torunn Sinclair, a spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee, told The Hill.
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell added “I don’t see any risk to Republicans at all opposing this, especially as it relates to the 2022 election.” A senior House Republican told CNN’s John Harwood there would be no Republican votes for it. “Personally I expect zero. No effort to reach out to House R[epublicans] by majority or W[hite] H[ouse]. Why would any R[epublican] vote for this?” Certainly not because they have any concern for their constituents.
Other Republicans preview how they intend to run against Democrats on this in 2022 and beyond: revisionist history. “Democrats stalled on coronavirus relief for months in 2020 when American families desperately needed it,” Mandi Merritt, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee said. “And what was their first priority when they now control the White House and both Houses of Congress? A politically motivated impeachment—not relief for struggling families. […] We will be sure that voters don’t forget this.” Never mind that the House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act on May 15 and followed up by passing the compromise $2.2 trillion bill on October 1, 2020. Never mind that McConnell completely ignored these bills and refused to even talk to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about negotiations.
Republicans intent on opposing the bill because they are Republicans and can’t do anything to help a Democratic president are insisting that despite the large bipartisan majority of support for the package, opposing it won’t hurt them. That poll, from CBS News/YouGov shows 83% approval for the package, including a majority of Republicans. A total of 61% of Republicans in that poll said that the $1.9 trillion package was either about right (34%) or not big enough (27%). Another poll from the left-leaning firm Navigator Research last week found 73% support for the package, including 53% support from Republicans. A New York Times/SurveyMonkey survey in mid-February found 72% approval for it, with 43% of Republicans approving.
That’s before the bill even passes. Before people get their $1,400 checks. Before they have more funding for their small businesses. Before they get their coronavirus vaccine. Before their family gets their brand-new monthly child tax credit payments. Once the benefits of this bill actually reach people, that support will solidify among all but the most hard-core Trumpist Republicans. Because the stuff in this bill is that good, and it really will help people.
A reminder: the bill provides $1,400 for every individual—including dependents, both minor and adult—who makes up to $75,000, or $2,800 to couples making $150,000, after which it tapers off, ending at the $100,000/$200,000 cap. That’s based on the most recent federal tax filing, so families who lost income in 2020 need to file right away to receive the maximum payment. The government will use 2019 filings otherwise.
The bill also provides direct aid to small business, including restaurants and bars which have been unable to use the Paycheck Protection Program funding. (Disclosure: Kos Media received a Paycheck Protection Program loan.) The child tax credits it is authorizing will be paid out monthly as opposed to annually, and raise the maximum credit from $2,000 to $3,000 for children between ages 6 and 17 and to $3,600 for children under 6. It includes a $400/week boost to unemployment benefits and continues their availability to gig and self-employed workers. It provides hundreds of billions in funding to state and local governments and to schools, and billions for both COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution.
All of that will spur the nation into recovery, both in public health and economically. Republicans are using an outdated playbook in thinking they’ll be able to skate—or even gain—politically by opposing it. They’re looking back to 2009, when an inadequate stimulus package by the Obama administration led to a too-slow recovery. Biden isn’t making that mistake again. Republicans are also looking back at their mostly successful opposition to the Affordable Care Act, when they made gains in House and Senate seats fighting the new law. Most of the benefits of Obamacare, however, weren’t immediately available to people as the law wasn’t fully implemented until 2014. Neither the 2009 stimulus nor Obamacare had the huge public support that this Biden package is now receiving.
The benefits of this package will be available immediately and to the majority of households in America, and that will make all the difference.