by Christy Bieber | Jan. 29, 2021
Another bipartisan stimulus plan may not be in the cards.
When lawmakers finally passed a $908 billion relief bill in December, it was the result of months of negotiation and it got bipartisan support. A group of moderate senators were instrumental to its passage, having helped to craft the framework for it. And that bipartisan coalition was hoping to work with the Biden administration on upcoming COVID-19 aid.
The Biden administration appeared ready to collaborate with this group as well, with the incoming president strongly pushing for a coronavirus bill that could get votes from both sides of the aisle.
Now, however, with key figures in the Democratic party urging the passage of a partisan bill through a process called reconciliation as early as next week, moderates have been left feeling sidelined and the chances of a bill passing with the support of both parties are quickly fading.
When centrist Republicans expressed concern recently about who would be eligible for the $1,400 stimulus checks the new president wants to provide, it appeared Biden was willing to negotiate on this issue. His statement suggesting he was open to giving ground, coupled with other assertions from White House officials, sent a strong signal that he was serious about working across the aisle.
Now, however, Democrats have vowed to tee up a reconciliation bill as soon as next week, moving forward without support from their GOP colleagues. Reconciliation allows for the passage of legislation with only 51 votes, and Democrats hold 50 seats in the Senate while Vice President Kamala Harris can act as their 51st.
In response to this plan for swift action, some moderates including Senator Susan Collins from Maine are reaching out to the president to urge him to keep his long-standing commitment to achieving unity by passing bills that get broad support.
"The president is sincere in his commitment to bipartisanship. That’s the way he always operated when he was a senator," Collins said. "And from my conversations with him since the election, it seems clear to me that he wants to continue to operate that way.”
Other key figures on the left, however, have made clear they aren't going to hold up their efforts to provide relief in an effort to find consensus. In fact, new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated unequivocally, "if our Republican colleagues decide to oppose this urgent and necessary legislation, we will move forward without them."
While the bipartisan group of lawmakers continues to meet to discuss a bill, one big obstacle is that Republicans won't pass legislation modeled after the proposal Biden put forth. They object to both the size of the $1.9 trillion bill, as well as some of its key provisions, including raising the minimum wage.
Democrats, emboldened by their new majority in Congress and the White House, have little reason to give ground as long as they can hold their caucus together -- especially as the Republicans passed several key pieces of legislation through reconciliation including the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
With party leaders eager to deliver for the public and centrist Republicans making clear the current proposal on the table is a non-starter for them, the likelihood of a bipartisan bill has dropped significantly. Instead, chances are good Democrats will move forward with their plans to start the process of passing stimulus through reconciliation next week. That could mean Americans will soon see money in their bank accounts as they move their bill rapidly through Congress and to President Joe Biden's desk.
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