CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS CHECKS

Will Republicans support Biden's proposed coronavirus relief bill?

The American Rescue Plan includes stimulus checks, unemployment benefits and vaccine distribution funding but the Democrats may struggle to find support in the Senate.

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Will Republicans support Biden's proposed coronavirus relief bill?
CHIP SOMODEVILLA AFP

Earlier this month, before he had even officially taken office, President Joe Biden announced details of a large-scale covid-19 relief bill that was intended to offer support for Americans suffering financially due to the pandemic. Known as the American Rescue Plan it is the flagship economic policy of the Biden administration.

Included in the $1.9 trillion package is another round of stimulus checks, greater funding for additional unemployment benefits and federal support for small businesses and local government. Biden believes it to be crucial to rescuing the American economy, but lawmakers on the other side of the aisle have voiced their opposition.

GOP Senators unhappy with the price of the new stimulus bill

In recent days a number of prominent Republican lawmakers have expressed their opposition with the new stimulus plan, arguing that a bill of this size is unnecessary so soon after the last one. In late-December 2020 President Donald Trump signed an emergency relief bill which provided $900 billion of federal funding to extend elements of the CARES Act, signed in March.

Biden has pledged to govern through bipartisan agreement, suggesting that he will be eager to get some Republicans on board with his proposal. However, so far, even the more moderate GOP lawmakers have spoken out against the bill.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine told reporters in Capitol Hill that she was sceptical of the plan's large cost, saying: "It's hard for me to see when we just passed $900 billion of assistance why we would have a package that big.”

See continued: "Maybe a couple of months from now, the needs will be evident and we will need to do something significant, but I'm not seeing it right now."

Others like Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, notably the only Republican to vote to convict Trump in the first impeachment trial, said they were in favour of a more “targeted” approach, suggesting that they could support a ‘trimmed down’ version of Biden's proposal.

Democrats will struggle to reach Senate supermajority

The Democrats should have little trouble getting the new stimulus bill through the House of Representatives, but will face much greater opposition in the Senate. Rather than a simple majority the Upper House requires a 60-vote ‘supermajority’ for legislation of this type to be passed.

Currently the Democrats control the Senate by the narrowest of margins; each party’s caucus has 50 members but the tie-breaking vote of Senate President Kamala Harris gives them the advantage. As it stands it is difficult to see the required ten Republican Senators crossing the floor to give the Democrats the votes they need.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune, the Republican Party’s chief vote counter in the Senate said recently: “I don’t think it can get 60. Because even the people on our side that would be inclined to want to work with the administration on something like that, that price range is going to be out of range for them.”

Biden may choose to risk upsetting Senate Republicans by utilising a Senate mechanism known as ‘reconciliation’ to ensure the bill is passed, but it seems like he will do so without the support of the GOP.