Joe Biden and Senate Democrats have been pushing the idea that the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill will be a bipartisan effort with Republicans able to participate in the crafting of the bill’s specifics.
But that’s hardly the case. In fact, there is near-unanimity among Republicans that the bill costs too much, isn’t necessary, and has too many provisions totally unrelated to the pandemic. There are also concerns among the GOP that the $900 billion stimulus package passed at the end of last year hasn’t had a chance to even begin to work its way through the economy.
But Biden has staked his presidency on the success of this measure whether it’s a bipartisan effort or not. Democrats will pass some kind of pandemic relief legislation with or without Republican support.
“The administration sent up a proposal of $1.9 trillion, weeks after we just passed $900 billion that hasn’t been accounted for yet,” GOP Senator Rob Portman told reporters on Tuesday. He argued that some provisions in Mr. Biden’s bill, such as raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and providing funds for cybersecurity, were unrelated to the pandemic.
It’s the same story that was told in every other pandemic relief bill passed so far. Democrats using the public health emergency as a cover to push some of the more radical ideas, totally unrelated to coronavirus relief. When you’re approving a spending bill for a couple of trillion dollars, Democrats figure why not include stuff that is completely non-germane to the issue?
The budget reconciliation gambit is no longer a fallback position for Democrats, considering the fact that they probably wouldn’t be able to get any GOP votes at all to hit the 60 vote threshold and avoid a filibuster.
Republican Senator Todd Young told reporters Monday he does not think there will be a bipartisan COVID deal unless “there is significant movement by the administration.” Mr. Biden has promised to work with Republicans, and Portman said on Tuesday that it would be a “big mistake” for Democrats to use budget reconciliation rather than attempt to negotiate with Republicans to craft bipartisan legislation.
“I think really it’s going to be the White House and the Democrats’ call as to whether they want to work with a bipartisan team to improve the legislation or whether they want to push through a reconciliation, a bill which came with only one party participating,” Republican Senator Mitt Romney told reporters on Tuesday.
Biden may throw a bone or two the GOP’s way, including tightening eligibility restrictions on the individual checks sent to taxpayers, and asking for less money for state and local governments. But he’s not going to gut the bill just to get GOP approval.
Unless one of the more moderate Democrats breaks with his party and president, Biden is likely to get his pandemic relief bill entirely with Democratic support.
I guess “unity” is a one-way street.