Pres. Biden, Congress Negotiate Covid-19 Rescue Package

Updated: Oct 16, 2021

With the new Biden administration in full swing, one of the predominant foci of American national politics continues to be the awaiting Covid-19 Rescue Package, which would soften the blow for the raging pandemic that continues to cause health and economic damage.

On Wednesday, the 3rd of February, the House of Representatives, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.), passed a budget resolution for a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill The resolution was primarily supported by Democrats, whose budgets regarding the package are far higher than those of their Republican counterparts.

Republicans’ non-support of the resolution stemmed largely from the ambitiously high budget of the package as well as several controversial add-ons. The Democratic plan involved a raised $15/hour federal minimum wage, many hundreds of billions of dollars distributed to state and local governments, and $1400 stimulus cheques for a broad range of Americans, some of whom, arguably, are not in need of money from the government.

The House resolution was almost completely on party lines; no House Republicans voted to move forward with the package, and two Democrats — Rep. Ed Case (D–Hawaii) and Rep. Jared Golden (D–Maine) — broke from Pelosi and backed the Republican stance on the budget.

The Senate, on the other hand, continues to engage in bipartisan discussion regarding the package, largely due to the 50-50 partisan split in the chamber. Because of Vice President Kamala Harris’s role as the Senate tiebreaker, Senate Democrats are able to move forward on discussing the resolution, voting 50-49 on Wednesday to move forward on passing the budget.

However, due to the power of several Democrats more moderate than the party leaders, particularly Senator Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.), the Senate has been careful to ensure at least partial bipartisan support on the budget. The predominant efforts for negotiation in the Senate involve the “Sweet Sixteen,” a group of moderate Senators (including ten Republicans) in correspondence with each other and the president to ensure a bipartisan Covid-19 relief bill.

The members of the Sweet Sixteen are Senators Susan Collins (R–Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R–Alaska), Mitt Romney (R–Utah), Rob Portman (R–Ohio), Bill Cassidy (R–La.), Shelley Moore Capito (R–W.Va.), Jerry Moran (R–Kan.), Todd Young (R–Ind.), John Hickenlooper (D–Colo.), Mark Kelly (D–Ariz.), Jeanne Shaheen (D–N.H.), Maggie Hassan (D–N.H.), Dick Durbin (D–Ill.), Mark Warner (D–Va.), Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.), and Angus King (I–Maine).

In the White House, President Biden, despite calls for bipartisanship, has indicated that he is willing to move forward with the Democratic plan, even if it meant excluding those on the other side of the aisle. In a meeting with GOP Sweet Sixteen Senators, the President was not satisfied by the Republicans’ $600 billion alternative to the $1.9 trillion budget. White House Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond told POLITICO on Wednesday that it was necessary for Congress to pass the President’s preference of budget, citing the dire Covid-19 health and economic crises.

However, as moderate Democrats such as Joe Manchin continue to express skepticism towards the president’s $1.9 trillion budget, it is uncertain how Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) would be able to find the necessary minimum of fifty Senate votes to pass the Democratic proposition. After a brief encounter with the vice president, who appeared on local West Virginia television to pressure Manchin into backing the bill, Manchin rebuked Vice President Harris, responding, “We’re going to try and find a bipartisan way forward, but we need to work together. That’s not a way of working together.”

Manchin has previously indicated that he does not support more liberal Democrats’ propositions of the $1.9 trillion package, $15 minimum wage, and $1400 cheques for Americans of a significantly wide range of incomes. Hence, while Democrats and the president continue to move forward with their $1.9 trillion bill, it is unclear what changes would need to be made to the current proposal to win the support of moderate Democrats more conservative than the party leadership.

Through Teen Lenses: What are your thoughts on the different Covid-19 relief proposals of both parties? Should President Biden reach across the aisle and work with Republicans or attempt to gain the support of every member of the razor-thin Democratic majority in the Senate, which would be necessary if no Republicans backed the bill? Is there such a thing as spending too much, and do you agree or disagree with Republicans that the current proposal’s high budget would hurt the economy?

The Democrats and Republicans both have good aspects in their proposals but both have downsides as well, as every policy is. The Democratic policy has benefits with relief packages to many American citizens, but a downside of a high government expense of up to $1.9 trillion. They also want to help people living on minimum wage by raising it to $15/hr. The Republican proposal is pretty much the opposite but with good parts and bad parts as well. The good part is that it costs significantly less than the democratic plan, but will give a relief package to fewer people. They also oppose a higher minimum wage.Each side has good reasons for their beliefs. The democrats want to help more people but by giving them money. The Republicans I believe are looking more in the long run and are hoping to get businesses back up and running again, especially small businesses. The Democrats want to help minimum wage makers by raising their hourly wage, but the republicans fear that will cause inflation, unemployment since it will make it harder for people to get jobs, and in the end will destroy small businesses. Both sides want to help but have opposite ideas of what the government should do to help.If Biden wants to pass a democratic plan in congress, he will have to get the support of the Republicans in the senate. If they don’t get enough support, their chances of the bill passing will be slimmer.There is definitely such a thing as spending too much, as seen when looking at America’s debt. I still consider myself an independent, but I do agree that the current proposal is too high, and stimulus packages can only get Americans so far it will do so little in the long run. If the high budget doesn’t get Americans in any better situation I believe it would just be a waste. They need to get businesses back up and running and decrease unemployment as much as possible.“ Sebastian Lising –– Rockville, Md.
I don’t think there is a clear or absolute answer as to whether Biden should come to a bipartisan agreement to reach the 60-40 vote or simply establish a simple majority vote with just the democrats. That really depends on the president and his personal priorities.What Americans care about isn’t the bureaucratic processes within the government but instead the speed and efficiency at which the government responds to this crisis and beginning the recovery process. Rolling out the vaccines, and sending out stimulus relief packages are top priority.There are definitely going to be costs to certain elements of the proposal as with everything. For example, in regards to the $15 minimum wage requirement in Biden’s new plan, I think there is definitely a risk involved and careful consideration should be given. We can raise the standard of living for some Americans but also place an undue burden on small businesses who are already economically strained these past 6 months –– causing more layoffs and increased job loss. I’m definitely not an expert in specific economic repercussions but these are all things the government needs to take into account.“ Katie Yuan –– Rockville, Md.

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