The coronavirus rescue package sausage is being made. Bipartisanship needn't be part of the deal
The legislative jockeying over more coronavirus relief is in full swing as lawmakers angle to get their priorities included in the rescue package being negotiated by the White House. One Thursday report from Politico suggested the White House might split relief in two, passing a “skimpier” $600-$800 billion bipartisan deal first, then follow up with progressive priorities passed using reconciliation (which would only need a bare majority to pass the Senate).
But multiple White House officials immediately shot down the piecemeal reporting, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeting, “We aren’t looking to split the package in two.” White House communications director Kate Bedingfield added, “We believe the American people need all of the help it will provide — now.”
The constraints of trying to negotiate a bipartisan deal of any kind are already evident. According to Politico, only eight Senate Republicans are involved in the current talks, which have proven fruitless so far. But swaying eight GOP senators wouldn’t even be enough to help Senate Democrats clear the 60-vote threshold to beat a filibuster.
Presumably, that’s exactly why Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already informed her caucus that House Democrats are preparing to pass the relief and rescue bill through reconciliation, “should that step be needed.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has delivered a similar message to his caucus.
In the meantime, progressive Democrats are not only vying for more relief, but more consistent relief in the form of recurring direct payments to struggling Americans “for the duration” of the pandemic. More than 50 House progressives have joined the push in a letter addressed to President Biden and Vice President Harris. “Recurring direct payments until the economy recovers will help ensure that people can meet their basic needs, provide racially equitable solutions, and shorten the length of the recession,” they wrote, adding, “one more check is not enough.”
Progressives are also urging the Biden administration to include eligibility for immigrant workers, refugees, and their families, who pay federal taxes but haven’t been included in previous relief packages.
And in the Senate, incoming Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders is pushing to include a minimum-wage increase in any reconciliation package that emerges. Biden has proposed upping the minimum wage to $15 per hour, though Democratic support for the measure is still uncertain.
Negotiations over the relief are ongoing, with National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and COVID czar Jeff Zients scheduled to call into the weekly Democratic Senate meeting on Thursday.
But one thing the White House needn’t be worried about is getting bipartisan buy-in, particularly if it hamstrings or delays getting much-needed relief to the Americans who need it most. New polling this week demonstrates that more than 7 in 10 Americans want GOP lawmakers to cooperate with President Biden. If Republicans aren’t interested in Biden’s vision, then the White House should simply get the boldest deal possible with Democratic votes alone.
In the end, the desperate Americans who receive relief checks won’t give a damn whether a few Republicans aided the effort or not. They’ll just be putting food on the table and keeping their families safe, warm, and fed. And by the way, the struggling economy won’t care about GOP votes either.