Voters will punish GOP in midterms for lack of COVID support

Voters will punish GOP in midterms for lack of COVID support
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With the budget reconciliation process working its way through Congress for the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan, it is becoming more evident that Democrats are making the calculation that they will be rewarded at the ballot box for its quick passage. With an aggressive timeline set by Democratic leadership in congress, final passage of the $1.9 Trillion COVID relief package could come in early March, likely in advance of the expiration of enhanced unemployment insurance which ends on March 14.

In the past year, Congress approved five different COVID relief packages on a bipartisan basis totaling more than $3 trillion and signed by President TrumpDonald TrumpMedia giants side with Bannon on request to release Jan. 6 documents Cheney warns of consequences for Trump in dealings with Jan. 6 committee Jan. 6 panel recommends contempt charges for Trump DOJ official MORE each time. Taking a cue from the stimulus fights of the Obama era, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Memo: Trump's justices look set to restrict abortion Conservatives could force shutdown over Biden vaccine mandate Freedom Caucus urges McConnell to block government funding over vaccine mandates MORE (R-Ky.) is actively working to keep every member of his caucus in line against Biden’s first signature piece of legislation. As CNN points out, however, McConnell’s machinations behind the scenes “amounts to a political risk for Republicans with polls showing clear majorities of Americans supporting an emergency rescue package and with the economy still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.”

The stimulus package remains remarkably popular by a wide margin of American voters, despite nascent attempts by GOP lawmakers to paint the legislation as too expensive or unfocused. Morning Consult and Politico last week published new polling data indicating that 76 percent of voters back the current $1.9 Trillion plan, including more than 60 percent of Republican voters. From the report, “just 3 in 10 GOP voters say they somewhat or strongly oppose the stimulus plan… and a combined 71 percent of independents say they support the stimulus package, compared with 22 percent who oppose it.”

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Congressional handicappers would be hard pressed to find another bill of this magnitude that has enjoyed this kind of sustained public support — a testament to the Biden administration’s laser-like focus on tackling the COVID-19 crisis and economic fallout.

With a 2022 senate map filled with opportunities for Team Blue to flip key states — including open seats in North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania — McConnell’s “political risk” seems sure to backfire in the face of this kind of public support behind COVID relief. Republicans are increasingly endangering their prospects by staking out this total obstruction position, despite strong optics coming from the Biden administration that they are committed to bipartisanship. Voters saw Biden’s first Oval Office sit down with GOP lawmakers to discuss the rescue package as a return to serious presidential leadership and a real move towards working with Republicans.

New polling from Yahoo! released last week mirrors many of the same figures from the Morning Consult/Politico polling, especially with regard to direct stimulus payments. From the Yahoo poll, “77 percent of respondents were in favor of sending $1,400 COVID-19 relief checks, including 61 percent of people who identified as Republican and 89 percent of people who identified as Democrat.” When it comes to the entirety of the bill, support among Republicans drops to 28 percent, but seen through an electoral lens that is a significant bloc of base GOP voters.

While there is hope on the horizon in terms of tackling the health crisis, especially when it comes to inoculating Americans, serious and widespread economic problems will likely outlast the virus itself. More than 18 million Americans are currently receiving unemployment benefits across the country, with 861,000 first-time filings just last week alone. In the words of USA Today, passage of the rescue package would “provide another big steroid shot to the economy,” which notes Moody’s Analytics predicts it would “allow the U.S. to add about 6 million jobs this year,” compared to 2.5 million without any legislation. According to USA Today, “the 6.3 percent unemployment rate would tumble to 4.8 percent by year-end under the Biden plan, while virtually flatlining with no aid.”

With the Senate Parliamentarian ruling on Thursday that the $15 minimum wage cannot be included in the final package for budget reconciliation, it is becoming increasingly clear that the rescue bill will be passed by the narrow Democratic majorities in Congress. Voters have a long memory when it comes to both economic and healthcare policies and will hold Republicans accountable for their obstruction in 2022.

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.