As CNN reports, Democrats in Washington are moving ahead with a plan to pass a comprehensive $1.9 trillion economic relief package via the budget reconciliation process, after a meeting between President Joe Biden and Senate Republicans to discuss their tiny fraction of a relief bill by comparison failed to impress:
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said President Joe Biden told Senate Democrats at lunch Tuesday that he wants a “big, bold package” on Covid-19 relief and that he told Senate Republicans that their $600 billion proposal is “way too small.”
It was a point White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated during her briefing — there are certain “bottom lines” that Biden wants to be in the next round of Covid-19 relief, including direct payments reaching more Americans than what the Republican proposal would include.
“His view is that at this point in our country, when 1-in-7 American families don’t have enough food to eat, we need to make sure people get the relief they need and are not left behind,” Psaki said.
While the 10 senators who participated described the meeting as “excellent” with “a very productive exchange of views,” in a joint statement, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden had emphasized that Congress had to act urgently and “boldly” and had pointed out many areas of disagreement with the Republicans…
While Biden “is hopeful” that what he calls the American Rescue Plan “can pass with bipartisan support, a reconciliation package is a path to achieve that end,” Psaki said. Using reconciliation, Democrats could potentially pass the bill in the Senate with only their 50 votes plus that of Vice President Kamala Harris.
Meanwhile, one of the more worrisome members of the Democratic coalition, “ConservaDem” Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, says he won’t oppose moving forward without Republicans:
“I will vote to move forward with the budget process because we must address the urgency of the COVID-19 crisis,” Manchin said. “But let me be clear – and these are words I shared with President Biden – our focus must be targeted on the COVID-19 crisis and Americans who have been most impacted by this pandemic.” Manchin also signaled his opposition to using budget reconciliation for non-emergency measures: “I will only support proposals that will get us through and end the pain of this pandemic,” he said.
President Biden’s meeting with Senate Republicans yesterday caused some upset with Democrats under pressure from their base to maximize the value of their tenuous 50 seat+1 majority in the U.S. Senate. But once again, Republicans self-sabotaged by coming to the table with a proposal so inadequate to addressing the need there was simply no point in trying to negotiate from it.
For anyone who follows the state of Colorado’s perennially fraught TABOR-constrained budget issues–and that should be more of you even though we know it’s not–the difference between the Republicans’ $600 billion relief proposal and the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan literally represents the difference between fiscal continuity and fiscal calamity. The $350 billion in Biden’s proposal is a lifeline to state and local governments whose revenues have been slashed during the pandemic even as demand for the services local governments are responsible for providing exploded.
With Republicans not putting forward even remotely serious counterproposals and Americans increasingly desperate for economic aid to get through what everyone hopes is the latter stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s time for Democrats to stop trying to bargain with Republicans to pass legislation they have the power to pass without them–and it seems as though they get that. After Republicans exploited their only slightly less narrow majority in the U.S. Senate for six years to generationally tilt the U.S. Supreme Court, Democrats should feel no political apprehension whatsoever in exercising their 50+1 majority power to get the most money possible to Americans who need it.
Who knows? If Democrats start acting like they know how to lead, voters might even reward their leadership.