(CNN) — The covid-19 aid plan of US $ 1.9 trillion promoted by President Joe Biden, and which is expected to receive final approval in the House this Wednesday, not only seeks to end the pandemic. It also represents the largest direct effort in years to tackle endemic poverty in the United States.
The fact that Congressional Democrats could not include in the bill the increase in the minimum wage to US $ 15 the time has caught quite a bit of attention. Yet much of the Covid-19 relief package spends billions of dollars for the underprivileged Americans.
Now, President Biden – who has cultivated a moderate political image with a willingness to work with Republicans – is not the only one who argues that the Covid-19 aid package is a turning point for working families. His main Democratic rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, has endorsed the initiative unequivocally. And he does so after years of criticizing the country’s economy and calling it unfairly biased towards millionaires.
“This is the most significant legislation for workers that has been passed in decades,” Senator Sanders from Vermont told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday. The legislator argued that while the covid-19 aid package aims to alleviate the economic and educational consequences of the pandemic, it is also more profound.
“I think what surprises many in the establishment, and certainly my Republican colleagues, is that we drafted a bill to address the crisis facing working families and the middle class, as well as people with low incomes. And not for the rich and big corporations and their lobbyists, ”said Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
Covid-19 aid to define Biden’s presidency
The covid-19 aid package will be a defining moment of Biden’s presidency in his symbolic first 100 days in office. Also, consider sending stimulus checks of up to US$ 1.400 to many Americans. It will also extend federal unemployment benefits until September 6.
House Democrats expected to pass the bill on Tuesday. However, there was a delay in the drafting of the legislative changes made by the Senate, which approved the initiative over the weekend. So the final vote is scheduled for this Wednesday. That term would still allow have biden present on thursday which by then would be a new law. Right during his first national prime-time address that will commemorate the first year of the pandemic that has affected the United States so much.
The covid-19 relief package includes more than subsidies for the unemployed. It establishes funds to reopen schools, assistance to affected small businesses, and child tax credits. In addition to aid for medical insurance. The measure represents one of the most audacious efforts by federal power in decades to ease the plight of the poorest Americans. It can even provoke comparisons between Biden and the great reformist Democratic presidents of the 20th century. But the initiative is uniformly opposed by Republicans.
Arguments from project supporters
In addition to its short-term impact, supporters of the bill say it has the potential to significantly reduce child poverty and improve health care for many Americans. Results that would not normally be expected in an economic stimulus proposal. Still, many of the benefits available under the legislation are very short-term. For example, unemployment benefits expire in September and child tax credits only last one year.
But proponents of the covid-19 relief package see the health loans and subsidies as a breakthrough in years. They also consider that the measure is an advance towards a permanent infrastructure that will be difficult, in political terms, not to extend. At least under the Democratic majorities in Congress.
When the president signs the bill, he will be able to claim a genuine achievement early in his presidency. And not just anyone. One that will validate the pillar of his political campaign and the promise to Americans that he could secure the resources and strategy that, according to him, are necessary to end the pandemic.
“When I was elected, I said that we were going to get the government out of the practice of fighting on Twitter and back to serving the American people,” Biden said Saturday.
What reveals the difficulty of the aid package for covid-19 in the Senate
The difficult process of getting the bill through the Senate, while balancing the aspirations of moderate and more liberal Democrats, revealed an important caveat. Precisely how difficult it will be for Biden to get his ambitious agenda approved. Including a voting rights bill that the House has already approved and measures on climate change and immigration.
In a separate action this Sunday, Biden signed a decree to extend voting access. And he did it, precisely while dozens of Republican legislators in multiple states are drafting bills to suppress the vote. Much of Biden’s measure appears to target minority voters directly.
The covid-19 relief plan was only approved in the Senate this Saturday after a prolonged time in limbo. Democratic leaders had to negotiate with the Moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia to adjust the term of extended federal unemployment benefits.
Senate Democrats were able to pass the bill through a procedure known as “conciliation.” However, some are already contemplating whether to amend or abolish filibuster rules that allow Republicans to block big laws that don’t get the supermajority of 60 votes. Something that is far beyond the reach of the Democrats.
Doubts among Democrats
But, there are doubts about the solidity of the group of legislators. Precisely, eight Democrats were reluctant to back an effort by Sanders to include the minimum wage increase in the covid-19 relief project. That raised questions about the position of congressmen when it comes time to vote against the obstructionist rules, something that has no turning back.
White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the president still hopes to jointly pass key laws with Republicans. It should be remembered that Biden spent three and a half decades in the Senate.
“His preference is not to end the obstructionist rules,” Bedingfield said of the president. “He prefers to work with the Republicans, with the independents. He believes that we are stronger when we build a broad coalition of support, “he added.
Manchin in the middle
Manchin is constantly balancing his own political realities. On the one hand, it represents a conservative home state, which former President Donald Trump overwhelmingly won. On the other hand, he is under pressure to be part of the Democratic group of legislators. Many progressives were furious at Manchin’s actions on the eve of the bill’s passage in the Senate. But without him Biden would not have had enough votes.
The West Virginia lawmaker denied on CNN Sunday that he made the bill less helpful for millions of struggling Americans. This despite ensuring a cap on the tax-free treatment of federal unemployment benefits. And to end the extension of assistance on September 6. Three weeks earlier than Democrats expected.
“All I did was make sure we were targeting where the help was needed,” Manchin told Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
“Right now, we are giving US $ 300 to people who are unemployed through no fault of their own. I want that to continue smoothly, “he added.
CNN reported that Biden, who campaigned on the grounds that his long experience in the Senate would help him reach deals for big bills, spoke with Manchin on Friday during the protracted confrontation. A source with knowledge of the conversation said the president listened to the West Virginia senator’s concerns. The person also indicated that Biden gave Manchin space not to put pressure on him. This is unlikely to be the last discussion of its kind between the legislator and the president. Biden has big plans but a small margin of error to implement them. Meanwhile, Manchin maintains extraordinarily effective power as a potential swing vote in the Senate.
The duel for help from covid-19 was also a test for Republicans
The weekend’s Senate duel over the covid-19 relief bill also represented the first significant test for the Republican Party in its evolution to a unified opposition against Biden’s agenda. The president took office pledging to work with Republicans, especially in the Senate. However, the US $ 600,000 alternative for the Covid-19 aid package proposed by that party was considered insufficient, given the magnitude of the current crisis. Still, Biden still hopes to achieve cooperation in other areas, such as infrastructure reform.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued last week that the decline in new coronavirus infections and the increasing success of the vaccination effort meant that the Covid-19 relief package was too extensive.
But Republicans are taking a political risk. They opposed Biden’s bill despite its wide popularity in the country. Also, despite signs that Americans are satisfied with the way the president is dealing with the pandemic. In addition, the daily covid-19 vaccination is close to 2.5 million doses per day.
Republicans apparently hope that the covid-19 relief project will be less popular in the future. And, wanting to rob the president of a bipartisan victory, they have claimed that the package is littered with irrelevant spending.
“When people find out what is in this bill, they will lose a lot of enthusiasm that they may have right now, because it was not really about the coronavirus in terms of spending,” said Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming in ” Meet the Press »from NBC this Sunday.
And one of the Republican governors who led the president last week to condemn “Neanderthal thinking” about early openings told CNN on Sunday that it was time for business to get back on track. Even as experts warn that covid-19 variants could increase in the coming weeks.
“All these people who, for a year, have said ‘follow the science, follow the data,’ now want me to completely ignore the data when things go wrong,” Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said in ” State of the Union. This in reference to the daily average of 450 new cases in his state, well below the national average.
Despite Republican pushback, an ABC News poll released Sunday found that 68% of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the crisis.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism