Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 billion stimulus bill risks a tumultuous Senate landing
Joe Biden’s attempt to inject the U.S. economy with a massive fiscal stimulus is expected to result in a tumultuous landing in the Senate this week, as lawmakers haggle over a $ 1.9 billion Covid relief package who will make or break his burgeoning presidency.
Having failed to gain the support of Republican lawmakers, the White House is focused on maintaining the unity of the Democratic Party, because even a single defection from its ranks to the upper house of Congress could reduce the chances of the bill.
After meeting on Monday with a small group of moderate lawmakers who are wary of the high price of the bill and are very likely to create last-minute hurdles, Biden Tuesday, attended a private lunch with all Senate Democrats to advocate for their support.
The formal debate on the stimulus package in the Senate is expected to begin as early as Wednesday and could continue for several days before a final vote.
“[Biden and his team] are clearly using all the levers and muscles they have to do it, ”said Adrienne Elrod, Democratic strategist and former senior adviser to Biden’s presidential campaign. “He’s going to succeed or fail by a slim margin anyway.”
The stimulus plan was approved early Saturday by a slim majority in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, but in the Senate the numbers are even tighter. There is a 50-50 split between Republicans and Democrats, with Biden’s party only hold the edge because US Vice President Kamala Harris casts all the deciding votes.
Some centrists Democrats pushed to ease legislation by limiting emergency unemployment benefits and eligibility for out-of-pocket payments to $ 1,400 per person, while others pushed for changes in state and local government funding to divert more money towards broadband access.
Some of these efforts have baffled the party’s left flank: Progressive lawmakers are now seeking their own changes, such as automatic triggers to ensure support for families unless certain economic milestones are reached.
The push for revisions has magnified the challenge for Bidenespecially since the bill is expected to return to the House for a new vote if any changes are made in the Senate. But lawmakers involved in the talks say he avoids any brutal interference, preferring to let Democratic senators forge their own compromise.
“Joe is put in a difficult position, because you know he has people beating him all over the place,” Joe manchinthe moderate Democratic senator from West Virginia told reporters on Tuesday, adding that the president was “inclined to let the process work.”
The stakes for Biden are huge. Political analysts say the success or failure of his debut in office depends on whether the stimulus package gets the green light on Capitol Hill and can be enacted before the mid-March deadline set by the House White.
“If the bill passes, if Covid is under control and the economy is booming, then Biden has a chance of being only the fourth president in a century to have done well mid-term after his election, ”said Bob Shrum, director of USC. Center for the Political Future, noting that Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush had also achieved such a feat.
Biden’s campaign for a $ 1.9 billion stimulus package has seen several twists and turns. He initially sought bipartisan support for the legislation to match his calls for greater unity in Washington, but it was clear Republicans would only agree to a much smaller deal.
Last month the White House had to hijack Democrats friendly fire by Larry Summers, former economic adviser to Barack Obama, who warned that the plan risked creating unhealthy “inflationary pressures” in the US economy.
Biden also received a heavy blow last week when the Senate parliamentarian, who advises on procedure in the Upper House, said a minimum wage increase – one of its main economic priorities – could not be included in the package.
But the president’s approval ratings have remained stable and at a much higher level than his predecessor Donald Trump both when he started and when he left office. This has given the White House confidence that the coalition that elected him is holding up well.
As Republicans attack the legislation on the grounds that it will have “adverse long-term consequences,” Biden is betting their criticisms will ring hollow. Polls have shown that the $ 1.9 billion package is supported by most Americans, which makes it difficult for even the most conservative Democrats to oppose it, which should help Biden clear the final hurdles.
“This is the time when everyone is looking to see if you can pass some great legislation and this is the one that they are putting everything in place right now,” said Julian Zelizer, professor of political history at the Princeton University. “If he can accomplish [it] I think that will help him to make the point that he was elected to solve the crisis we are in, and that he has already delivered the goods.
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