President Biden: Go big with COVID-19 relief

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In the first season of the West Wing, there’s an episode called “The Short List,” where fictional president Josiah Bartlett sits down for a conversation with retiring Supreme Court Justice Joseph Crouch played by Mason Adams. Adams’s character admonishes the president by saying, “You ran great guns in the campaign. It was an insurgency, boy, a sight to see. And then you drove to the middle of the road the moment after you took the oath. The American voters like guts, and Republicans have got them.”

President Joe Biden won more votes than any presidential contender in American history, including over 7 million more votes than his opponent in this past election. It would be a mistake for Biden to “drive to the middle of the road” with his “American Rescue Plan,” and a slew of new polls suggest that the majority of voters support going big with COVID-19 relief.

Earlier this month, Trump campaign pollster Tony Fabrizio, released a post-campaign forensic report which laid the blame for the president’s defeat squarely on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Washington Post, “the 27-page document shows that voters in 10 key states rated the pandemic as their top voting issue, and President Biden won higher marks on the topic.”

Since the election, Biden has built on that level of support when it comes to tackling the COVID-19 crisis. In a new ABC News/Ipsos poll, more than two-thirds of Americans approve of Biden’s response to the pandemic. “In line with attitudes measured just after his inauguration, twice as many Americans approve of Biden’s leadership on the virus than disapprove, a feat that his predecessor never accomplished in the year of ABC News/Ipsos polls on the coronavirus while he was still in office.” In the same ABC News/Ipsos poll, nearly 9 in 10 Americans support additional COVID relief measures with a plurality of those polled supporting Democrats’ efforts to pass the $1.9 trillion package unilaterally.

One key constituency that has supported Republicans in the past, based on tax and economic policy, are small business owners. Interestingly enough, some 63 percent of small business owners in this country support the Biden administration’s full $1.9 trillion relief package. The majority of small business owners that support this package also include 46 percent of self-identified Republican small business owners. “In fact, Biden’s relief package has much more support from Republicans than Biden has himself,” according to CNBC. “Only 14 percent of Republican small business owners say they approve of how Biden is handling his job as president.”

Just 12 years ago, Biden’s former boss, Barack Obama faced a similar dynamic in congress when attempting to pass a sweeping economic recovery package. As the New York Times notes, “At the depth of the Great Recession, Mr. Obama pushed through a stimulus program 24 days after taking office in 2009 with almost no support from Republicans who showed little interest in Mr. Obama’s ostensibly bipartisan goals.” Biden remembers all too well the multiple overtures and concessions made to House and Senate GOP members in futile attempts to win over bipartisan support for both the early recovery package and, later on, the Affordable Care Act. As CNN’s Phil Mattingly writes, “back then Democrats lowered the size of the plan to garner some Republican support, a decision many of them came to regret during the slow recovery that followed.” Count Obama’s Vice President among that group of individuals who regretted that decision.

Arguably, the most over-used saying in politics is “elections have consequences” — but they do, and fortunately for the Biden administration, the American people are firmly behind passage of the American Rescue Plan, including a surprising number of republican voters. As CNN points out, “the common goal among Biden’s team was to go big — even if that means going it alone.” While Congressional Democrats may very well have to “go it alone” in terms of budget reconciliation, they are likely to be rewarded come the midterms for acting decisively to combat the health and economic crisis.

Justice Crouch’s admonition still rings true, “American voters like guts” — and President Biden would demonstrate his by going big and passing the American Rescue Plan as it stands.

Kevin Walling (@kevinpwalling) is a Democratic strategist, Vice President at HGCreative, co-founder of Celtic Strategies, and a regular guest on Fox News, Fox Business and Bloomberg TV and Radio.

Tags 2022 midterm elections American Rescue Plan Barack Obama coronavirus pandemic Covid relief covid relief bill Joe Biden Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign Joe Biden administration The West Wing

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