Biden and the stimulus: A tall order

Conor Kelly (TheLorian)

Nearly two weeks into his presidency, President Joe Biden is already facing a crossroads in his policy agenda. Driven by his desire to fulfill a campaign promise to provide additional COVID-19 relief to Americans, he has called for $1,400 in stimulus checks in addition to funding for vaccine rollout. It would be the second stimulus check provided during the pandemic after the Cares Act, which was passed last year and provided $1,200 for single adults. In addition to that, another bill passed by the Trump administration provided a smaller amount of $600 to everyday Americans, excluding dependents.

Since then, calls for stimulus relief have only grown. Newly-elected senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, both of whom won in the run-off election, have pressed the Biden Administration to pass the stimulus as quickly as possible in a recent phone call. Much of their victory could be explained by their promised support for a generous stimulus bill.

Still, the effort will require strong dedication to pass. Currently, the filibuster remains an option for Republicans, who are hesitant to pass another bill. During their remaining time in control of the Senate, the Republicans were already hesitant to pass the stimulus, as they were focused on confirming judges to the judiciary.

More than that, Republicans are increasingly concerned with the cost to the budget. The first stimulus bill cost approximately $900 billion, whereas Biden’s current plan for a stimulus would cost an estimated $1.9 trillion. Republicans such as Susan Collins have warned that they are sympathetic to funding vaccine rollout but are cautious due to the bill’s high cost. With a small majority in both the House and the Senate, Democrats face a tall order in passing the stimulus but seem confident they can do so with or without their Republican counterparts.

Under the current Senate rules, most legislation pieces can be filibustered, meaning they can block the passage of legislation by talking until they run out of the energy to do so. To overturn a filibuster, a vote must be called that reaches two-thirds of the vote. Democrats are unlikely to get the necessary votes to overturn it. However, through a process known as reconciliation, financial legislation can be passed via a simple majority, a majority that Democrats say they are likely to have. Senator Bernie Sanders, chairman of the finances committee, has stated that he would use reconciliation if necessary. President Biden has also expressed willingness to support the move if Republicans don’t get on board within the next week. Democrats are hoping to find bipartisan support for their stimulus plan, but unlike their previous dealings in the majority, it appears they are not about to wait for long.

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Conor J. Kelly was the Opinion Editor for the Lorian and a prolific staff writer. He graduated from Loras College in April of 2021 and is now pursuing his master's in political science at the University of Illinois, Springfield. You can find his new work on The Progressive American newsletter.

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