Pass the rescue bill — with or without Republicans
The Republican party never ceases to amaze me. This past Sunday I watched Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson tell ABC’s Martha Raddatz that Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who has voiced support for executing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and believes that Jewish space lasers started the California wildfires, is fit to serve because “I don’t think we ought to punish people from a disciplinary standpoint or a party standpoint because they think something a little bit different.”
Just a week before, I listened to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tell George Stephanopoulos that he can’t say the election wasn’t stolen and still needs to see an investigation of fraud. And in the days between I watched Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) rally voters in Wyoming against their congresswoman, Liz Cheney, for her vote to impeach President Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) pose for a photo op with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort after telling the world that “the president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters” on the floor of Congress.
Against this backdrop, my mood is decidedly anti-unity.
And President Biden’s should be, too. If unity means kowtowing to extremists, that has nothing to do with bringing back an era of comity and bipartisan work he touted on the campaign trail and in his inaugural address.
The definition of unity cannot be working with Republicans who deny reality and put elected officials, as well as everyday Americans, in danger. The definition of unity must be getting things done to improve the greatest number of American lives. That is what Biden was elected to do.
Americans agree. ABC News/IPSOS polling shows that 69 percent approve of Biden’s COVID-19 response and 67 percent approve of Biden’s transition. Over 80 percent support requiring mask wearing, 70 percent support rejoining the World Health Organization (WHO), 65 percent support rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate and 55 percent support reversing the Muslim travel ban.
In Georgia, which swung both the presidency and the Senate for Democrats, polling shows the GOP is in free fall. Trump is under water at 57 percent unfavorable to 40 percent favorable, while Biden’s favorability stands at 52 percent. Former state representative Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, is similarly favored at 51 percent, and newly elected Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock are at 50 percent and 54 percent favorable, respectively. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, stands at -9 favorability and the GOP overall is at -26.
You know what’s more popular than any politician? Stimulus checks. By a +56 margin.
Pass the stimulus bill. And do it through reconciliation if you have to. As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) put it, “The issue is not bipartisanship or not. The issue is, are we gonna address the incredible set of crises and the pain and the anxiety which is in this country.” There was some good news Monday, when Democratic leaders filed a joint budget resolution that could lay the groundwork for passing a relief bill.
Bipartisan group-working does not matter more than deliverables to the American public. Voters care about their priorities more than any photo op of Biden having lunch with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or playing golf with Rep. McCarthy, or how many votes from the other side there were on major pieces of legislation.
Consider the 2017 Republican tax overhaul bill. In a party line vote, the GOP pushed through a bill that gave 83 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent of Americans. Within a decade, 53 percent would pay more in taxes. That doesn’t sound like a particularly good bill for the average American. And yet, moderate Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio thought that the GOP should use the 50-vote threshold in 2017, but tells CNN’s Dana Bash now that if Democrats use the 50-vote threshold they would “poison the well.”
What’s more, the tax cuts were a central plank in Trump’s reelection argument that focused on how strong the economy was, pre-pandemic, and his ability to bring it back to life once the country re-opens. His argument worked for a majority of voters who prioritized the economy as their top issue when they voted in November.
So, if I’m understanding this correctly, passing legislation with a party line vote is bad only when Democrats do it.
The central question will be whether Biden’s supporters will reward him more for getting cash in their bank accounts, vaccines in their arms, and their kids back in school than bipartisanship. I can’t honestly think of any Biden supporters who wouldn’t.
Tens of thousands of moderate voters who do not historically vote Democrat supported Biden because his priorities were in line with their priorities. No one ranked “working with Mitch McConnell” above getting stimulus checks or containing the virus. It’s the stuff of GOP propaganda to say otherwise.
The new GOP compromise bill, which would shrink direct payments from $1,400 to $1,000, is akin to a capitulation. There’s a reason that Biden hung a massive portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Oval Office and it isn’t that he’s worried about an extra $400 per American.
We will continue to get new information — such as the recent report that top Trump health official, Paul Mango, actively lobbied Congress to deny state governments extra funding for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout — and the case for the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill will continue to grow.
Smart Republicans will see that their support is essential to their electoral futures. And if they don’t? Pass the bill anyway. They’d do the same.
Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.