The covid relief bill is among the most popular pieces of legislation in decades. The Economist reports the bill is more popular than the Affordable Care Act, George W. Bush’s tax cuts, the 2017 Trump tax cuts, the Dodd-Frank reform bill and a slew of other measures. (It’s not as popular, however, as the 2007 minimum-wage hike, so it is a pity certain Democratic senators abandoned the $15 minimum wage proposal.)
After suffering through an administration with neither the will nor the competency to address the pandemic and its attendant economic recession, Americans are increasingly optimistic. “Overall, 48% of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction, compared with 37% who said that in December,” the AP/NORC poll finds. “The poll also shows that 43% of Americans expect things in the country overall to get better in the next year, while 34% think things will get worse and 23% think they will remain about the same.”
Americans have every reason to be optimistic. The Biden team has roughly doubled the pace of inoculations, with 2 million vaccinations administered daily. Aided by a third vaccine and a federal investment in inoculation sites and personnel, the pace of vaccinations will increase. President Biden announced this week that enough vaccine will be available by the end of May to vaccinate every American adult.
With the infection rate declining and vaccinations increasing, the economy is showing signs of life. “The U.S. economy added 379,000 jobs in February, a level that surpassed analysts’ estimates but remains below the rate needed to regain the more than 9 million jobs lost since last year,” The Post reports. “The unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a percentage point to 6.2 percent.”
And with all of this, Republicans in the House and Senate nevertheless unanimously oppose the covid relief plan, a legislative proposal that has in fact unified the country. Moreover, it is bound to “work” insofar as the $1,400 checks will go out, increased food assistance will be offered and money will flow to state and local governments, as well as to small businesses. The economy will recover, and thanks to a massive spending bill, the administration and its Democratic allies will get the credit (whether deserved or not).
Republicans’ argument is that we are spending too much. The ordinary American who might return to work in the months to come or get the benefits of the bill will likely say “Who cares?” And the country will never know whether recovery would have been possible with a $1 trillion bill instead of a $1.9 trillion bill. Republicans’ opposition is politically obtuse, to put it mildly.
Support for a bill that takes away nothing and gives Americans what they want should be a no-brainer. And yet Republicans remain in a funk about lack of “bipartisanship” — meaning the president has chosen to embrace the support of 70 percent of the public rather than dismantle a bill to suit obstructionist Republicans in Congress.
It is true the first midterm elections of a presidency usually result in gains for the party out of the White House. However, it is not usual for a party out of power to choose a political strategy as inexplicably self-destructive as is the MAGA Republicans’ opposition to the rescue plan. Given their reflexive attempts to block popular measures, they might well defy historical trends.