The low price tag isn’t just inadequate given the scale of the economic and health crises, it’s also unserious given the Republican senators’ alleged desire to cooperate in a bipartisan fashion. Democrats have been clear throughout the pandemic that relief must include direct aid to states on account of the impact of the recession on state budgets. Spending cuts on education, public safety and other services will only prolong the pain and harm the recovery.
If Republicans were serious about compromise, they would look for ways to either honor that request or to compensate for its exclusion with a concession: larger checks, more unemployment insurance or money for the expanded child tax credit. Instead, Republicans have taken state aid off the table in addition to slashing or eliminating all other assistance. This is a bipartisan proposal only in the sense that if it passed, Democrats would have voted for it.
The Republican senators seem to think that the bipartisanship ball is in the Democrats’ court, and that it’s incumbent on Biden to compromise with them. But this has it exactly backward.
So far, a bipartisan majority of Americans — 53.4 percent, according to the FiveThirtyEight average — approve of the job Biden is doing in office. A larger majority supports a Biden-sized Covid relief package, Data for Progress, a left-leaning polling firm, reports. And in the latest poll from Monmouth University, 71 percent of Americans want Republicans in Congress to “find ways to work together with Biden” rather than focus on keeping him in check.
There is also the not insignificant fact that Biden won the November election by more than 7 million votes, flipping Georgia and Arizona — former strongholds of Sunbelt Republicanism — in the process. The Democratic Senate majority represents 40 million more Americans than the Republican minority, even though the chamber is split 50-50 between the two parties.
The question of this Covid relief package — and really, the next two years — is not whether Biden and the Democratic Party will appeal to Republicans in Congress. The question is whether Republicans will reconcile themselves to a reality in which the president has a mandate to act. The public wants bipartisanship and consensus. Will congressional Republicans give it to them?
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