While welcoming President-elect Joe Biden's nearly $2 trillion coronavirus relief package as a positive—but not wholly adequate—step toward mitigating the ongoing pandemic and economic collapse, progressives are warning Biden against weakening the already-insufficient proposal in an effort to achieve a compromise deal with the very same Republican Party that abetted last week's deadly insurrection on Capitol Hill.
"In order to ensure this urgent and popular agenda is passed immediately and not watered down, the president-elect must work with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to abolish the filibuster now. No compromises, and no excuses."
—Evan Weber, Sunrise Movement
Evan Weber, political director of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, said in a statement late Thursday that "though it doesn't include all of the necessary relief Americans need right now—like the $2,000 monthly checks championed by Vice President-elect [Kamala] Harris—it's a bold plan that would not just provide short-term relief, but transform the foundations of our economy through measures like permanently increasing the minimum wage to $15/hour."
But Biden's expressed desire to pass the relief package with Republican support, Weber cautioned, "is delusional and dangerous."
"Republicans are the party that just incited a violent insurrection of Confederates on the nation's Capitol in an attempt to invalidate the election," said Weber. "In order to ensure this urgent and popular agenda is passed immediately and not watered down, as well as enact Biden's other important plans for green infrastructure, democracy reform, and more, the president-elect must work with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to abolish the filibuster now. No compromises, and no excuses."
Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) voiced a similar sentiment in a tweet Thursday, writing that Democrats "have the majority, and we have a mandate."
"We need to bring immediate, comprehensive relief to people without compromising with the same party that just encouraged and excused an insurrection," Bowman added.
We have the majority, and we have a mandate. We need to bring immediate, comprehensive relief to people without compromising with the same party that just encouraged and excused an insurrection. https://t.co/SYCIg8Twkn
— Jamaal Bowman (@JamaalBowmanNY) January 14, 2021
Georgia Sens.-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are expected to be sworn in shortly after Biden takes office on January 20, giving the Democratic Party control of the Senate by the narrowest possible margin.
But even with unified control of government—and even after the violent assault on the the U.S. Capitol that many Republicans encouraged with their deranged rhetoric and incessant lies—Biden has refused to dispense with his commitment to seeking bipartisan compromise with a party that is openly hostile to much of his agenda.
In a speech outlining his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan late Thursday, Biden declared that "we need more action, more bipartisanship, and we need to move fast."
"The GOP has no public standing, especially in trying to stop emergency aid in the middle of an economic cataclysm."
—David Sirota and Andrew Perez, The Daily Poster
"I look forward to working with members of Congress from both parties to move quickly to get the American Rescue Plan to the American people," Biden said. "And then we can move with equal urgency and bipartisanship to my Build Back Better Recovery Plan that I will call for next month to generate even more economic growth."
Predictably, some top Republicans wasted no time trashing Biden's proposal and complaining about its price tag, which is well short of the roughly $4 trillion in spending that some economists say is necessary to end the downturn and pave the way for a just recovery.
"True to form and his signature failed 'stimulus,' President-elect Biden launches yet another economic blind buffalo that does nothing to save Main Street businesses, get people back to work, or strengthen our economy," Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement. "Special interests and liberals are cheering. The jobless and Main Street are left shaking their heads."
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Despite many Republicans' resistance to spending any more money on coronavirus relief, Biden is determined to "seek a deal with Republicans" on coronavirus relief, Bloomberg reported earlier this week, an agreement that "could mean a smaller initial package that features some priorities favored by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell."
"How is it that an incoming Democratic president wants to actively reward and legitimize a GOP that tried to overturn a national election, even though that incoming president doesn't even need GOP votes to pass a stimulus bill?" The Daily Poster's David Sirota and Andrew Perez asked on Thursday.
While legislation typically requires 60 votes to pass the Senate, Biden and congressional Democrats have the option of passing coronavirus relief through budget reconciliation, an expedited process that is not subject to the filibuster. Only a simple majority vote is needed to pass legislation through the budget reconciliation process, which Republicans used to ram through their tax cuts for the rich in 2017.
Biden's pursuit of compromise with the GOP, argued Sirota and Perez, becomes "more mind-boggling when you remember that the Republican machine is on its heels after it egged on a violent insurrection at the Capitol."
"The GOP has no public standing, especially in trying to stop emergency aid in the middle of an economic cataclysm," the pair wrote. "Things get truly maddening when you remember Biden's focus on appeasing Republicans comes at a time when the new chairman of the Senate Budget Committee that could utilize budget reconciliation is none other than Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who remains one of America's most popular political figures and who could use that notoriety to go big."
"The takeaway should be obvious, and it's something we've been saying for months: Progressives are not going to get anything from the new administration unless they are willing to publicly pressure the new administration," Sirota and Perez added. "That means progressive lawmakers are going to have to be willing to fight and it means progressive advocacy groups in Washington are going to have to be willing to prioritize results rather than White House access."
NEW: Biden isn't even president yet, and he's trying to cut a deal with Republicans that would make the stimulus bill smaller -- even though he doesn't even need GOP votes. Totally unacceptable. https://t.co/qZxtAoq7Wr
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) January 14, 2021
Some Democratic senators have also publicly voiced wariness about spending too much time chasing a bipartisan compromise as the virus spreads, mass layoffs continue, and millions of people struggle to afford food, rent, and other basic necessities.
"We should not spend an inordinate amount of time testing Republican willingness to come on board," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) told the Washington Post earlier this week. "It would be excellent if we can get a big bipartisan vote, but if that's Plan A we're going to have to move to Plan B pretty quickly if we can't get the votes."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said Friday that she "carefully read President-elect Biden's America Rescue Plan" and found that it is "full of many things I've been fighting for: Hazard pay. Rent and utility assistance. An eviction moratorium. Extended and expanded unemployment. Paid leave. A $15 minimum wage. An OSHA [Emergency Temporary Standard]. And lots, lots more."
"I'll work with President-elect Biden to strengthen and pass this package immediately," Warren added. "But let's be clear: if the Republicans want to drag their feet while working families struggle, the Democratic majority should use every legislative tool available to pass it."
This story has been updated with comment from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).