Republicans Stick to Less is More as American Families Struggle
Democratic control of the Senate opens a path for higher direct stimulus checks to American taxpayers. Democrats have long supported higher direct payments, but Senate Republicans obstructed them from bringing the issue to a floor vote. Although a $900 billion relief bill passed at the end of December, provisions were meager considering how long Americans have b waited for relief. By delivering $2000 checks Democrats reinforce their promise to support the American people while the pandemic rages in ways the GOP was unwilling to do.
Chances of a bipartisan agreement on higher checks disappeared at the beginning of the month. GOP leadership continued refusing to acknowledge the economic fragility faced by millions of taxpayers. In December, Trump tweeted his dissatisfaction with the check amount right after both congressional bodies passed the relief package included in the annual budget legislation. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin represented Trump in those negotiations and gave the deal his blessing.
Trump Creates a Last Minute Problem
A surprise to no one, Mnuchin and Trump appeared to be on different pages when it came to the relief bill. After eight months of negotiations since the CARES Act, Congress and Mnuchin reached an agreement that finally made it to Trump’s desk. All Trump had to do was sign it, and that would’ve been an easy win for him as he winds down his presidency. Instead, he highlighted the low amount Senate Republicans begrudgingly agreed to because of mounting public pressure and pressure from congressional Democrats.
Trump complained that the check should be $2000, something he failed to point out while negotiations were underway. Your run-of-the-mill Trumpian melodrama promptly unfolded, whereby he threatened not to sign the bill without higher checks. This latest heretical switch in policy position aligned Trump with Congressional Democrats. They quickly agreed that higher checks were necessary, something they had been advocating for months to death ears on the other side of the aisle.
Senate Republicans Deny Struggling Taxpayers Higher Stimulus Checks
Democratic leadership drafted a bill that increased direct payment amounts from $600 to $1200 for taxpayers who made less than $75,000. However, Senate Republicans chose this issue, which would benefit struggling Americans, to break with Trump. The GOP would rather face the wrath of Trump’s base than help working families.
Republicans attempted to spin blocking higher checks as “socialism for the rich.” A take so wrong and hypocritical, it would be funny if we weren’t in the middle of a global pandemic, and the livelihood of millions of people wasn’t on the line.
For reference, Canada gave $1,400 per month for four months for anyone who lost their income after Covid. Australia subsidized six months of wages of $1500 every two weeks for unemployed and other eligible individuals for six months. Yet here in the United States, purportedly the wealthiest country globally, Republicans using Frank Luntz talking points distort $2000 for struggling taxpayers into a bad thing.
Such talking points spin an unpopular position into one that’s more palatable for the GOP electorate. This is how the right-wing media echo chamber works. They twist the truth and keep repeating it until they work their base into a frenzy, with dangerous consequences.
Mitch McConnell Tries to Weasel his Way Out of $2000 Checks
Direct Checks Become a Wedge Issue in Georgia
This time, those talking points were not enough to secure a Republican majority in the Senate. Higher checks became a significant issue late into the Senate runoff campaigns. By electing two Democrats to the Senate in a state that’s been reliably red for decades, voters are making themselves heard loud and clear: they want higher checks. People are hurting financially, and they are tired of petty squabbles in Congress.
While Democrats were able to win the majority, they only have a razor-thin margin with a 50-50 split and Vice President-elect Harris placing the tie-breaking vote. That means that sweeping Supreme Court and filibuster reforms and other progressive goals will likely not be possible. That is because to pass most legislation, a 60-vote supermajority is necessary.
What Does a 50-50 Senate Mean?
However, they may still pass some ambitious legislation without a supermajority through budget reconciliation. This process expedites budget bills through Congress by bypassing the filibuster and passing with only simple majority support. Congress is allowed to consider one per year, and they can include anything relating to the budget.
That could include higher taxes for the rich, another round of checks, and a larger stimulus bill. It was through this process that Trump was able to pass his 2017 corporate tax cuts. Keeping the promise, they campaigned on during Senate runoffs is an easy way for Democrats to assure voters they made the right choice in handing them the Senate.
If you want to ensure Congress makes higher direct checks a priority, contact your local representative. If you’re looking for a way to contact your representative, you can do so at this number: (202) 224-3121.
Author Mayra Conte is a graduate student from Southwest Florida who blogs about current events with a focus on Covid-19. Follow her @mimiconte.
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