Polls show President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package is overwhelmingly popular with the American people, but that isn’t stopping Republicans from lining up against it.
According to a survey conducted by The Economist/YouGov, 66% of Americans back Biden’s plan, which includes $1,400 stimulus checks, added unemployment assistance, an expanded child tax credit, and hundreds of billions of dollars for schools and vaccine distribution. A survey released Tuesday by Morning Consult showed the plan polling even higher, at 76% with all Americans, including 60% of Republicans.
Congressional bills rarely see this kind of public support, especially in a political atmosphere as divided as this one.
But Republicans are trying to brand the bill as a payoff for progressives, packed with money that schools don’t need to safely reopen, excessive benefits for unemployed workers and state and local governments, and a minimum wage hike that will wreck small businesses.
“Unfortunately, the Democrats’ partisan proposal would not just be wasteful, but in certain areas, actively counterproductive,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said the polls showed support for elements of the narrower $600 billion relief package that she and 10 other Republicans proposed last month that included direct payments and supplemental unemployment benefits, albeit at lower amounts.
“Obviously, what people are responding to are the things that we ... wanted to happen in a COVID package,” Capito said.
Still, Capito says she plans to vote against Biden’s plan because it’s too costly.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), one of Capito’s co-authors, actually supports several elements of the bill. He also announced his own proposal for a sweeping child allowance that would give parents cash every month, an idea that resembles the Biden bill’s expanded child tax credit.
But in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Monday, Romney slammed Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan as a “clunker,” saying states have more revenue than previously forecast and highlighting a Congressional Budget Office analysis noting that only a small portion of the school funding would be spent this year.
“A group of us proposed a $618 billion compromise measure that matched President Biden’s proposed health and vaccine funding, extended enhanced federal unemployment benefits, provided economic relief for those with the greatest need, and included nutrition funding, small-business assistance, and resources to get children safely back to school,” Romney wrote.
At this point, few, if any, Republicans are expected to support the package, which will be voted on by the House on Friday and taken up by the Senate next week. Democrats say Republicans are welcome to join them in passing additional coronavirus relief, but that they’re willing to do it on their own if necessary. Under special budget rules, Democrats only need a simple majority in the Senate to pass the bill and send it to Biden’s desk.
Meanwhile, bipartisan discussions between Republican senators and the White House have “stalled,” according to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
“I would be surprised if there was support in the Republican caucus if the bill comes out at $1.9 trillion even if we’re able to make some beneficial changes,” Collins said Monday.
The core part of the bill, accounting for nearly a quarter of its overall cost, is direct payments of $1,400 to most Americans, including their children. The sum is meant to top off the $600 checks Congress approved in December.
That sending people money in a pandemic is winning politics isn’t just a polling abstraction. Biden and Senate Democrats promised in December, during a double runoff election in Georgia, that if they won the Senate as a result of the election, they would deliver the money. And they won.
Republican messaging against the bill hasn’t swayed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who noted its popularity across the country in a floor speech on Tuesday.
“One of the last polls I saw showed a majority of Republicans, voters, citizens, Americans ... agree with this plan,” Schumer said. “The nation understands we are not out of the woods yet, and that Congress should do what’s necessary to finish the job. Where are our Republican friends?”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the day of Schumer’s Senate speech.