WASHINGTON (AP) – Republicans have a goal for President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid package: to break down public support for the rescue plan by portraying it as too big, too inflated and too much waste of public spending on a pandemic , which is almost over.
Senate Republicans prepared on Friday to vote lockstep against the relief proposal, taking the calculated political risk that Americans would buzz over the big-dollar spending on vaccination distribution, unemployment benefits, money to the states and other spending as unnecessary once they have all learned the details. When they revive a page from their 2009 downfall of Barack Obama̵
It is a tested strategy, but comes at an uncertain, unstable time for the nation. Americans are experiencing a flicker of optimism on the one-year anniversary of the deadly outbreak as more people are vaccinated. But new virus strains and an ever-shaky economy could unleash yet another devastating cycle of infections, lockdowns and deaths. More than 500,000 Americans have died.
So far, public support for Biden’s approach to the pandemic is high. Overall, 70% of Americans support the Democratic president’s handling of the virus response, including 44% of Republicans, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Biden and the Democrats who support him warn that it is not time to give up aid – better to risk doing too much than too little. They say the cost of reducing the rescue risk is stopping the economic recovery that many believe happened in 2009.
“When the house is on fire, you are not discussing how much of the fire to put out,” Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., Said during Friday’s session.
“You do what it takes until the crisis is over,” she said. “And you do it as quickly as possible.”
The debate in Congress reflects a fundamental divide in the country on how to contain and crush the pandemic and bring the nation back to normal. Nearly 10 million jobs have been lost, some 11 million households are facing postponement. While Democratic leaders generally have side by side with health professionals who support social distance limitation and ease of reopening in school and the workplace, congressional Republicans have been more eager to do business as close to the usual as possible.
The United States is not alone in confronting the daunting dilemma that has serious implications for the size and scale of aid needed to prevent further economic disaster.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who leads his minority party against the “no” vote, said Biden’s 628-page bill is a democratic “wish list” not fulfilling the moment because the pandemic is lifting and the economy is ready for a “roaring recovery.”
“We are already on the verge of jumping back from the crisis,” he said.
Republicans claim that Congress has already approved historic sums to counter the pandemic and worry that large expenditures will overheat the economy, raising fears of inflation, although economists are mixed with these concerns. They have an opening with voters who the poll shows are skeptical of Biden’s handling of the economy.
McConnell expressed similar optimism last spring when he hit “pause” on new spending after approving the initial round of aid, his massive $ 3 trillion CARES. Around that time, then-President Donald Trump promised that the Americans were almost back to normal before Easter Day.
But as Texas announced this week, it would seek to end the requirements for the use of face masks, one of the most important strategies that public health officials say helps stop the spread of the virus, known political fault lines and concerns resurface. Texas was among the first states to reopen in May, easing restrictions at the start of the second wave of the pandemic that ran through the summer.
Jason Furman, the former chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers who now teaches at Harvard, agrees that parts of Biden’s package are too large, suggesting that the $ 350 billion for states and cities may be reduced or tightened. waste protection lists. But he said the greater economic danger is about not doing enough.
Vaccines alone are not enough to ensure a healthy economy, he said. Households are struggling and businesses are facing changing consumption habits and consumption. The Biden package offers $ 1,400 direct payments to individuals, phased out for those earning $ 80,000 a year.
“If you add up the financial needs of households and the shortcomings facing the state, the US rescue plan will overwhelm them,” he said via email. “But no legislation is perfect, and as I said, if the family’s disadvantage is that families get a little more money in a given year, it’s much less bad than if Congress fails to act.”
When Biden embarked on a partisan strategy that went alone and that stood on democratic votes for passage, the Republicans are in a state of struggle.
Senate Republicans forced an overnight reading of the bill Thursday, delaying the start of the debate.
On Friday, they began offering what will be dozens of changes, designed in part to change the bill, but also to highlight expensive expenses and less popular provisions. One of the Democrats’ own amendments to reduce extra jobless benefits from $ 400 a week to $ 300 was to split their ranks and cause further delays.
Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Who forced the reading of the bill in early Friday morning, used charts and props to help Americans understand the size of the $ 1.9 trillion package.
“The human mind can not really consider what a trillion is,” he said before starting with examples. He suggested that a stack of 1 dollar bills would extend the distance halfway to the moon.
GOP Senator Mike Braun of Indiana said that when they are done, they hope to turn public opinion around.
“We will reveal every ugly detail of it,” he said.
The White House is aware of the challenges ahead. Many of Biden’s employees are veterans of the 2009 matches.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday at the time that they were not doing enough to explain to the American people the benefits in ways “that people would talk about at their dinner tables.”
Associated Press authors Josh Boak and Zeke Miller contributed to this story.