President Biden scored a crucial political victory with passage of the $1.9 trillion spending package at the center of his coronavirus-recovery efforts, with Republicans looking to 2022 struggling to convince voters the popular legislation is a lemon.
The American Rescue Plan cleared both chambers of Congress along party lines, the only defector in either party being Rep. Jared Golden, a Maine Democrat who joined Republicans in opposition. Voter support for the law topped 60% and 70%, respectively, with backing for individual provisions running even higher. Its enactment marked an auspicious early beginning to a Biden presidency under pressure to end the pandemic and defend thin Democratic majorities in midterm elections.
“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving people in this nation — working people and middle-class folks, the people who built this country — a fighting chance,” Biden said upon signing the massive spending bill into law.
The Democrats had to wait nearly a decade for voters to warm to the Affordable Care Act after former President Barack Obama enacted the law in 2010. Meanwhile, dissatisfaction with the healthcare overhaul cost Democrats the House, then the Senate, and arguably helped elect Donald Trump president in 2016. Republicans are hoping Biden’s American Rescue Plan falls out of favor — and a lot faster than it took for the public to change its mind about Obamacare.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, the presumptive next speaker if Republicans recapture the House majority next year, said the United States has made great strides in overcoming the deadly coronavirus only to see that progress undone by Biden’s “costly, corrupt and liberal” bill. The legislation does not do enough to reopen public schools, McCarthy emphasized, and adds to the crushing national debt that creates a new “burden” on the taxpayers.
“Despite being branded as ‘Covid relief,’ only 9% of funds in this bill actually goes to defeating the virus,” McCarthy said in a statement. “Almost half the money, including more than 95% of the education funds, will not be spent until 2022 or later.”
That the American Rescue Plan begins life a crowd-pleaser is not for lack of trying by congressional Republicans. Party officials combed through the legislation and presented voters with the details of several components of the bill that are long-held Democratic policy priorities and not, they argue, uniquely related to coronavirus relief. For instance, Republicans say $350 billion in aid to state governments will be used to paper over fiscal mismanagement that predated the pandemic.
Over time, Republicans could make headway with their message that costs of the Biden “bailout” outweigh the benefits if the recovery Democrats promise it is going to spur does not materialize. The flood of federal cash into the economy could spark inflation. The pace of public school reopenings, already a challenge for Biden, could move too slow. The economic recovery could stall. Such developments could turn voters against the American Rescue Plan — and against the Democrats in 2022.
Republicans are now working aggressively to sell this message in public, having failed to block the American Rescue Plan from becoming law in Congress. In prepared remarks immediately after the legislation passed the Senate, Sen. Mike Lee said the bill “was written for the Democratic Party.”
“Five times, we crafted major COVID relief bills in a bipartisan process and passed them with overwhelming bipartisan support,” the Utah Republican said. “Democrats abandoned that approach and instead passed a partisan grab bag of special interest handouts in the name of fighting a disease.”
It could be Republicans are having a hard time finding takers for their doomsday warnings about the new law because they never proposed a consensus alternative.
In that case, $1,400 stimulus checks in direct payments to millions of people, expanded Obamacare subsidies to purchase healthcare, and expanded child tax credit, not to mention billions of dollars for small businesses, all sounds pretty good to voters. The country is still reeling from a deadly pandemic that has left more than 500,000 people dead, businesses shuttered, and an unemployment rate hovering above 6%.
Democrats are expressing confidence that the bill will deliver as advertised. Despite holding just a five-seat majority in the House and a one-vote majority in the 50-50 Senate, courtesy of Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaker, they managed to get behind the legislation after neutralizing some dissension in the ranks and pass it just shy of Biden’s 50th day in office.
It couldn’t have happened without all of you working as a team,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York during a Rose Garden ceremony with Biden to celebrate passage. “It’s been a long and difficult year in America. We’ve lost so many in so short a time. But finally, hope is on the horizon and help is on the way.”
Author : David M. Drucker
Source : Washington Examiner : GOP labors to turn massive Biden spending law into 2022 ammunition