So called ‘moderate’ Republican senators endanger the Biden rescue package
GOP opposition to President Biden's rescue plan has come fast and furious. | Matt Slocum/AP

WASHINGTON — So-called “moderate” Republicans have displayed their true colors in recent days when they announced they intend to oppose President Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue package.

Unless Democrats fight with everything in their arsenal, this move by these GOP senators would certainly delay the $1,400 payments to most Americans by months if not kill them altogether.

Even worse for the long term, killing the Biden rescue package would lay the groundwork for GOP victories in 2022 and comebacks for the anti-democratic coup supporters in their ranks.

There are only two ways that the rescue package can become law. The first is for the Democrats to bring 10 Republican senators over to their side. The problem with that approach is that the end result would likely be a watered down rescue package that does not really do the jobs that have to be done.

The other way the rescue package can be enacted can is by using budget reconciliation, a maneuver allowable to pass budgetary bills. The Democrats would need only a simple majority in the Senate to do this.

Republicans claim this maneuver would be an unfair attack on their rights as the Senate minority. The reality, however, is that this is in fact the democratic (small “d”) option which would allow the majority of the people and the majority of lawmakers to prevail over right-wing Republican obstruction.

Biden is mounting a push to get the Senate to pass the rescue package and that is all well and good. Democrats must be prepared, however, to exercise the democratic option.

Republicans who say they want to spend more money to fight the virus and fix the economy but that they can’t support spending as much as Biden wants must be exposed for what they are really doing. They are carrying out the first part of a right-wing strategy to defeat the rescue package and put the Biden administration in a bad light.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of these so-called moderates,  said she’s “sympathetic” to boosting vaccine funds but doesn’t see the justification for a bill “that is so big.”

“It’s hard for me to see when we just passed $900 billion in assistance why we would have a package that big,” Collins told reporters Thursday. “Maybe a couple of months from now, the needs will be evident and we will need to do something significant, but I’m not seeing it now.”

Last we checked Collins is in possession of her senses so it is impossible for her to say she does not see the need in the country right now. And even if COVID was the only crisis we were facing, waiting to tackle all the other problems until sometime in the future, when we can “see” better, guarantees that we will be in a deeper depression by the time the pandemic ends.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called Biden’s request “significant,” adding that “the ink is barely dry on the $900 billion” bill.

“And so it’s going to require, I think, a fair amount of debate and consideration,” she told the press.

Sen. Mitt Romney R-Utah, a conservative who has a long history of supporting trickle down and austerity economics said that he is not “inclined” to spend even another $500 billion on an economic package. When has Romney ever been in favor of a people’s budget over a corporate one? Never, at last check.

Using budget reconciliation is likely the only way the Democrats can get this package enacted. The announced positions of the “moderates” on the rescue package indicate budget reconciliation is the path the Democrats will have to take.

“I think the administration and the caucus would prefer it be done on a bipartisan basis,” House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said last week. “We haven’t made a decision yet to use reconciliation but we are prepared to move very quickly if it looks like we can’t do it any other way.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who is slated to chair the Senate Budget Committee, has also said Democrats should use reconciliation if outreach to Republicans fails.

Biden’s plan allots $400 billion for the vaccines and safe reopening of schools, additional $1,400 stimulus payments, $400-per-week in federal jobless aid, $25 billion in child care assistance and health care subsidies to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and fund COBRA health insurance coverage. It follows the $900 billion plan approved in December that provides direct payments and other economic aid through March.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that all the components of the rescue package are critical and intertwined.

“The way that the package was designed was to address the core issues of the crisis,” she said in response to a question about whether it could be enacted partially to gain GOP support. “So, I think the tricky piece of that question is: Do you delay vaccine funding to distribute the vaccine? Do you delay funding for unemployment insurance? Do you delay funding to reopen schools?”

Brian Deese, the director of Biden’s National Economic Council, said last Friday that “Without decisive action, we risk falling into a very serious economic hole, even more serious than the crisis we find ourselves in. The risk of doing too little far outweighs the risk of doing too much.”


CONTRIBUTOR

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

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