US President-elect Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 billion economic stimulus package faced a growing backlash from Republicans in Congress on Friday, underscoring his challenge of securing strong bipartisan support for the bailout.
Pat Toomey, Senator from Pennsylvania, and Rick Scott, Senator from Florida, joined Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives who attacked the plan after being announced in a speech by Mr Biden on Thursday evening.
“Explode an additional $ 2 trillion in borrowed or printed money – while the ink on December’s $ 1 trillion aid bill barely dries and much of the money is not still spent – would be a colossal waste and economically harmful, ”Toomey said in a statement. .
The Republicans’ initial backlash to the plan represents a rebuke to Mr Biden’s call for “unity” and swift approval of the stimulus package, which will become his top legislative priority after his inauguration on January 20.
While Democrats control the House of Representatives, the Senate is evenly divided, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting a deciding vote.
Senate rules require a 60-vote supermajority threshold for the legislation to pass, but Democrats could still pass the stimulus package by simple majority using a parliamentary procedure called reconciliation which is reserved for tax bills. and expenses. However, that would force Democrats to remove any unrelated measures from the package, such as an increase in the federal minimum wage.
The result of Republican skepticism is that the overall price of Mr. Biden’s stimulus package can be reduced during negotiations on Capitol Hill, with some measures removed.
“The end result will likely be another tax relief plan, but it is also likely to be much smaller than the one proposed,” Moody’s Analytics economists said on Friday, estimating that it would represent “no more than the half the size “of Mr. Biden’s plan. .
Elements of the plan could also be fought by centrist Democrats such as West Virginia’s Joe Manchin.
Mr Biden’s team is also grappling with uncertainty over when to consider the Senate stimulus bill, which is also expected to hold the impeachment trial of outgoing President Donald Trump for prompting a Deadly riot on Capitol Hill.
The main elements of Biden’s stimulus plan
465 billion dollars – Direct stimulus payments to individuals up to a maximum of $ 1,400 each
350 billion dollars – Assistance to state and local governments
350 billion dollars – Extension of emergency unemployment benefits of $ 400 per week
170 billion dollars – Fund to reopen schools and universities
160 billion dollars – Coronavirus vaccination, testing and tracing fund
$ 120 billion – Extension of the child tax credit
250 billion dollars – Combination of other policy changes
Source: Analysis of the plan by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, has not said when she will send the indictment article in the upper house, which would trigger a trial, possibly as early as next week. On Friday, she bypassed reporters’ questions about timing: “You’ll be the first to know, when we announce we’re going there.”
Many Republicans have passed more direct payments to individual Americans and would likely support Mr. Biden’s proposal to send checks for $ 1,400. But the party is opposed to spending $ 350 billion in aid to states and local governments – a key democratic priority.
“I will continue to fight for targeted relief that provides the necessary assistance to Americans hardest hit by this pandemic,” said Scott. “But I am not going to sit idly by and let failed Liberal policies be used to mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren.”
Mr Biden and his top economic aides have argued that the US economy is in desperate need of help coping with the slowdown in the recovery at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is still raging.
Discouraging data this week – including a surge in jobless claims and low retail sales numbers – added to concerns about slowing economic momentum.
Besides direct payments and state aid, the $ 1.9 billion stimulus package presented by Mr Biden also includes an increase in the child tax credit, an extension of unemployment benefits, as well as funding. the reopening of schools and vaccinations.
Although the plan received overwhelming support from Democrats on Capitol Hill, some progressive lawmakers complained that it was not ambitious enough.
Cori Bush, a Democrat from Missouri, wrote on Twitter that checks for $ 1,400 did not equal $ 2,000, while Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City said she wanted the increase in unemployment benefits to be increased. ‘applies retroactively.
Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont who was to chair the budget committee, called the plan a “very solid first installment.”