(CNN) — US President Joe Biden plans to use the $ 1.9 trillion covid-19 aid bill, which is expected to be approved by Congress on Wednesday, as a platform for a generational transformation of the economy to benefit less well-off Americans and alleviate poverty.
The passage of a bill of this scale and ambition two months after the start of the term of any new president would represent a victory that affirms his power. The political reward for Biden for his first achievement in leaving a legacy may be even greater. He had to carry the measure through slim majorities in Congress and an ideologically divided Democratic group. And in the midst of the worst internal crisis since World War II.
Biden ran for election promising to send stimulus payments to millions of Americans and secure enough money to fund the return of children to school, while accelerating the pace of vaccination. When you deliver your first primetime address to Americans on Thursday, you can argue that you kept your word as you fight to end a pandemic that has killed more than 525,000 Americans.
Leadership matters. Vaccines are up, infections are down, survival checks of $ 1,400 are on the way, and that’s just the beginning, ”Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chairman of the House of Representatives Democratic group, said Tuesday.
With its tax credits for low-income children and workers, an extension of health insurance subsidies, and nutritional and rental assistance, the American Rescue Plan intends to do much more than just stimulate the economy. The liberal champion, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, hailed it as a great victory for the progressive movement and the greatest relief for American workers in many years. While many of the bill’s provisions are short-term, CNN’s Kevin Liptak reported Tuesday that the president intends to launch an effort to make them permanent.
Early successes are crucial for presidents, as they must harness their power when they are at their peak early in their terms. Political muscle is built for later legislative struggles by enacting priorities and uniting party factions behind a common cause. Presidents who struggle to get initial priorities approved aren’t necessarily doomed. But they run the risk of creating an impression of disorder that can hurt them in their first midterm elections, as was the case with the failure of President Bill Clinton’s effort to reform American health care.
Biden’s initial big bill was approved by the Senate last weekend only after a dramatic negotiation to secure the crucial vote of moderate Democrat Joe Manchin. The president personally stepped in to get the West Virginia president to step up, using his Senate experience, which he had told voters would help ease divisions in Washington. In many ways, his handling of the measure, mainly in the background, albeit intervening when necessary, marks a return to traditional presidential persuasion after the vehement tweets of his predecessor, who frequently changed his position on the laws and left his politically exposed legislators themselves.
While Manchin won concessions on the schedule for extended unemployment benefits, he was eventually able to vote for what is essentially a liberal bill despite coming from a state former President Donald Trump won twice with sizable majorities. And progressives dismayed by the removal of an increase in the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour chose to value the gains, backing the effort and vowing to fight another day.
But Biden couldn’t keep another of his campaign promises: to secure Republican support for major initiatives. The president considered that the $ 600,000 million of an alternative package offered by 10 Republican senators was insufficient for the scale of the crisis. In the votes so far in the House and Senate, the bill has not attracted a single Republican, as Biden’s rivals put their options for the midterm elections on the basis of a base of pro activists. Trump who are willing to deny the new president an early victory.
The bailout bill is unusually popular for such a huge and politically transcendent measure. Various polls show that more than 60% of the public supports him, which means that some Republican and independent voters agree.
However, if such an expensive bill is unsuccessful, Biden will be exposed, given the lack of Republican support. Key Republican lawmakers rate their number one priority as a gargantuan, aimless liberal giveaway. Meanwhile, some economists fear it could trigger an inflation spike in an economy that already appears to be in recovery and could overheat if there is too quick an exit from the pandemic.
GOP House Conference Speaker Liz Cheney warned Tuesday that there would be an inevitable consequence of the bill’s scale, even though the GOP was very happy to spend money when Trump was president.
“It is a real tragedy when you look at that package. We know that the result of that package will be tax increases for the middle class, “said the Republican of Wyoming.
An expansive federal government
Some experts have already described the bill as the most fundamental push for the welfare state since President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society measures. While Biden’s ambitions appear to be on the same level as those of Johnson and New Deal Chairman Franklin Roosevelt, the Ransom Act may not deserve such comparisons.
Many of its key provisions, including health insurance subsidies, an additional child tax credit, and food stamps, expire in months or up to two years. But progressive activists see the bill as a preview of federal benefits that politicians will find politically difficult to eliminate, at least under Democratic majorities. The bill is sure to be a foothold in the Democratic election campaign for the midterm elections next year.
Following his speech Thursday, Biden is expected to hold his first presidential press conference, speak at a joint session of Congress, and board Air Force One in the kind of nationwide bombing that has been postponed until now due to the pandemic. .
Biden has said that President Barack Obama was too modest in promoting the success of the $ 800 billion Recovery Act in 2009, and he seems willing to avoid the same mistake.
In that case, however, recovery would always be slow after the Great Recession. By the time of the midterm elections in 2010, many Americans were still suffering and it would have seemed rude to take a victory lap.
But if the current rate of vaccination is maintained and the end of the pandemic is not derailed by a wave of illness and death caused by variants of COVID-19, Biden can expect a much faster and more robust economic rebound.
The bill is almost the opposite of Trump’s only major legislative triumph outside of a conservative reshuffle of the judiciary: a massive $ 1.5 trillion tax cut that was aimed primarily at corporations and the better-off Americans.
The comparison shows the huge ideological divide between the two parties, even as some pro-Trump Republicans exploit the problems of the culture war to present their party as the true voice of America’s working class.
Republican lawmakers, however, also have little incentive to break the party line despite the popularity of Biden’s bill, as in an era of seat distribution and hardened partisan divisions, the biggest threat to their jobs It comes from the challenges in the primaries.
As the White House prepares to shake up what it considers a huge success, the approval process for the US Rescue Plan also included red flags for Biden as he sets his sights on the rest of his ambitious agenda, which includes revisions. to immigration laws and laws on climate change, infrastructure spending and gun control.
His initial request for $ 1.9 trillion, which represents nearly half of the United States’ annual federal budget, fuels Republican claims that his administration will be based on runaway socialism. The attack takes substantial liberties with the term, but seemed to resonate with sectors of the electorate in the elections of last November, when the Republicans in the House of Representatives managed to reduce the Democratic majority.
The arduous task of getting moderate Democratic senators like Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona in line with their colleagues suggests there could be tough discussions ahead if Democrats seek to hamper the fossil fuel industry. And eight Democratic senators voted against a proposal by Sanders to insert the minimum wage increase into the Senate bill. The Vermont Independent’s tactic was symbolic in many ways, but it underscored one of the Democratic Party’s dividing lines on Capitol Hill.
The partisan nature of the votes on Biden’s recovery package also has some Democrats wondering whether they should seek to abolish the obstructionist rules that force most important laws to have a 60-vote majority to pass. The gigantic $ 1.9 trillion creature made progress through a process known as reconciliation, which applies only to budget issues and can be used only sparingly.
The White House says Biden, a Senate traditionalist, hopes to avoid such a move, which would likely be a step too far for Manchin and Sinema. But it seems equally true that Democratic priorities like the right to vote will die in a Senate tied 50-50.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism