Despite President Joe Biden’s push to garner bipartisan support for his $1.9 billion stimulus package, which includes another round of stimulus checks for most Americans, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate is preparing to act as early as next week on the proposal.
On Thursday, federal data were released that showed the US economy shrank 3.5% in 2020, despite a 4% growth in the last quarter.
“Our preference is to make this important work bipartisan, to include input, ideas, and revisions from our Republican colleagues or bipartisan efforts to do the same,” Schumer said. “But if our Republican colleagues decide to oppose this urgent and necessary legislation, we will have to move forward without them. We have a responsibility to help the American people fast, particularly given these new economic numbers. The senate will begin that work next week.”
On Thursday, the White House said it has not given up on both an expedited and bipartisan stimulus bill. But there is a growing realization that a bill would need to go through the budget reconciliation process in a way to subvert the Senate filibuster, which would only need a simple majority instead of 60 votes.
“The President wants this to be a bipartisan package, regardless of the mechanisms. Republicans can still vote for a package… even if it goes through with reconciliation,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said. “There's no blood oath anybody signs. They're able to sign -- to support it regardless. And he wants this to be a bipartisan package. He's listening to Democrats and Republicans -- we all are -- to ensure that that's what it looks like at the end of the day.”
A number of Senate Republicans have said they’re open to considering a stimulus bill, but would prefer that a bill be smaller and more targeted in nature.
“On the subject of bipartisanship, I'm disturbed by the rumors the Democrats’ plan to use reconciliation to force another COVID bill through congress on partisan lines before, before even giving good-faith effort to bipartisan negotiations,” Sen. John Thune, R-SD, said. “Republicans are more than willing to work with Democrats on additional targeted COVID relief legislation. Now I won't pretend that we don't have reservations about some of the measures the democrats have proposed. For instance, I don't think an emergency COVID relief bill is the place to push through a change that would more than double the federal minimum wage and directly increase expenses on businesses that have been decimated by the pandemic. That's a policy with a lot of economic consequences, and it shouldn't be pushed through congress in a hasty facial.
“Republicans are concerned about the enormous amount of money that Democrats want to spend.”
Even with using budget reconciliation, with exactly 50 senators caucusing with Democrats, there is little margin for error. Without any GOP votes, all 50 members along with Vice President Kamala Harris would have to vote in favor of the package.
The White House is currently pushing the wide-ranging $1.9 trillion bill that includes funds for state and local governments, distribution for COVID-19 vaccines, PPE for schools and $1,400 stimulus checks for many Americans.
If Biden was looking to garner any GOP support, one of the first senators he may have look toward is Utah’s Mitt Romney. While Romney said he is open to another round of stimulus, he suggested on Sunday’s CNN State of the Union that relief should be more targeted.
“I think at this early stage just having passed over $900 billion in relief, that before we were to pass a new program, we need to understand where the money is going, are these the individuals that really need the help, how has the first $900 billion we just passed a couple weeks ago, how has that been distributed,” Romney said on CNN’s State of the Union.
“If there is need, if there are areas where in our $900 billion package we didn’t recognize a particular problem, we should focus on that and provide the additional resources necessary,” Romney added. “I am open to that discussion.”
Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk.Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs or on Facebook.