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The real reason Republicans oppose Biden’s big COVID relief plan

Robert Reich, professor of public policy | February 5, 2021
Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid relief proposal.

Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief proposal.

Ten Senate Republicans have proposed a COVID relief bill of about $600 billion. That’s less than a third of Biden’s plan. They promise “bipartisan support” if he agrees.

Their proposal isn’t a compromise. It would be a total surrender. It trims direct payments and unemployment aid that Americans desperately need.

Republicans say America can’t afford Biden’s plan. “We just passed a program with over $900 billion in it,” groused Senator Mitt Romney.

Rubbish. We can’t afford not to. Millions of people are hurting.

Besides, with the economy in the doldrums it’s no time to worry about too much spending. The best way to reduce the debt as a share of the economy is to get the economy growing again.

Beyond COVID relief, Biden has other proposals waiting in the wings, such as repairing aging infrastructure and building a new energy-efficient one. These would make the economy grow even faster over the long term – further reducing the debt’s share.

There’s no chance that public spending will “crowd out” private investment. If you hadn’t noticed, borrowing is especially cheap right now. Money is sloshing around the world in search of borrowers.

It’s hard to take Republican concerns about debt seriously when just four years ago they had zero qualms about enacting one of the largest tax cuts in history, largely for big corporations and the super-wealthy.

If they really don’t want to add to the debt, they have another alternative: A tax on super-wealthy Americans.

The total wealth of America’s 660 billionaires has grown by a staggering $1.1 trillion since the start of the pandemic, a 40 percent increase. They alone could finance almost all of Biden’s COVID relief package and still be as rich as they were before the pandemic. So why not a temporary emergency COVID wealth tax?

Let’s be honest. The real reason Republicans don’t want Biden’s plan is they fear it will work.

This would be the Republican’s worst nightmare: All the anti-government claptrap they’ve been selling since Ronald Reagan will be revealed as nonsense.

Government isn’t the problem and never was. Bad government is the problem, and Americans have just had four years of it. Biden’s success would put into sharp relief Trump and Republicans’ utter failures on COVID and jobs.

If Biden gets his plans through, he and the Democrats would reap the political rewards in 2022 and beyond. Democrats might even capture the presidency and Congress for a generation. After FDR rescued America, the Republican Party went dark for two decades.

Trumpian Republicans in Congress have an even more diabolical motive for blocking Biden. They figure if Americans remain in perpetual crises and ever-deepening fear, they’ll lose faith in democracy itself.

This would open the way for another strongman demagogue in 2024 – if not Trump, a Trump-impersonator like Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, or Trump Junior.

If Biden is successful, though, Americans’ faith in democracy might begin to rebound – marking the end of the nation’s flirtation with fascism. If he helps build a new economy of green jobs with good wages, even Trump’s angry white working-class base might come around.

Biden doesn’t really need Republicans, anyway. With their razor-thin majorities in both houses of Congress, Democrats can enact Biden’s plans without a single Republican vote.

My worry is Biden may want so much to demonstrate bipartisanship that his plans get diluted to the point where Republicans get what they want: Failure.

Forget bipartisanship. Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans didn’t give a hoot about bipartisanship when they and Trump were in power.

If Republicans try to stonewall Biden’s COVID relief plan, Biden and the Democrats (will) go it alone through a maneuver called “reconciliation,” allowing a simple majority to pass budget legislation.

If Republicans try to block anything else, Biden and the Democrats should scrap the filibuster – which now requires 60 senators to end debate. The filibuster isn’t in the Constitution. It’s anti-democratic, giving a minority of senators the power to block the majority. It was rarely used for most of the nation’s history.

The filibuster can be ended by a simple majority vote. Democrats now have the power to scrap it. Biden will have to twist the arms of a few recalcitrant Democrats, but that’s what presidential leadership often requires.

The multiple crises engulfing America are huge. The window of opportunity for addressing them is small. If ever there was a time for boldness, it is now.

Cross-posted from Robert Reich’s blog

Comments to “The real reason Republicans oppose Biden’s big COVID relief plan

  1. What a con job. You leave yourself with no creditability. Basically sounds like the same stuff you said with OBAMA and the stimulus program which benefit his donors like Solyndra. Give him all this money for all these “shovel ready job” and the economy will boom. it did not. Slowest recovery ever. look at the trump economy, look at the oversea tax dollars brought in. I can go on but you already quit listening.

  2. To say say that Republicans “want failure” is
    absurd. No one wants suffering at the hands of this pandemic and I don’t know anyone, of any political persuasion who doesn’t want our economy to thrive. The GOP proposal is too low and the administration’s plan is absurdly high. It’s unfortunate that Carl’s primary website carries this purely political and partisan message when we so need unity.

    • Well said, Cecil. Our Congress should focus on relief for impacted American people and small businesses, not tagging another $25 million to fund gender programs in Pakistan, $500 million for Israeli Cooperative Programs, $500 million for Jordanian defense spending (i.e. building a wall that had started since the Obama era), and $33 million for Venezuela’s democracy programs into the Omnibus bill. How do these fundings to foreign countries help many Americans who have lost their jobs? If we keep on printing money to fund all these non-COVID related programs we as well as our children and grandchildren will pay the price for many years to come. While our Congress has been funding Jordan to build their wall, Biden halted our own southern wall building and ICE from deporting illegals, which is drawing many illegals to our southern border now. If Biden were truly concerned with COVID, why would he open up our southern border at a time when our country and many other countries have not even opened up our border for international travel to prevent the spread of the virus? Yes, our country is hurting since Biden has put over 10,000 Americans out of work by cancelling the Keystone pipeline on his first day in office. Signing 28 executive orders including many that jeopardize our fellow Americans’ safety and jobs within the first 2 weeks in office, Biden does NOT demonstrate bipartisanship and is definitely ruling by dictatorship. One-party communism policy by scraping filibuster will not work in this country, as we patriotic Americans will continue to defend our constitution, our freedom, our liberty and justice for all.

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