GOP rallies solidly against Democrats’ $1.9T virus relief package

Republicans rallied solidly against Democrats’ proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill as lawmakers awaited a decision by the Senate’s parliamentarian that could bolster or potentially kill a pivotal provision hiking the federal minimum wage.

Despite their paper-thin congressional majorities, Democratic leaders were poised to push the sweeping package through the House on Friday. They were hoping the Senate, where changes seem likely, would follow quickly enough to have legislation on President Joe Biden’s desk by mid-March.

By late Wednesday, not one Republican in either chamber had publicly said he or she would back the legislation. GOP leaders were honing attacks on the package as a job killer that does too little to reopen schools or businesses closed for the pandemic and that was not only wasteful but also even unscrupulous.

“I haven’t seen a Republican yet that’s found something in there that they agree with,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “I think all Republicans believe in three simple things: They want a bill that puts us back to work, back to school and back to health. This bill is too costly, too corrupt and too liberal.”

The hardening opposition suggested that Biden’s first major legislative initiative could encounter unanimous GOP opposition. That was a counterpoint to the new president’s refrain during his campaign about bringing the country together and a replay of the Republican wall that new President Barack Obama encountered in 2009 and most of his administration.

Democrats showed no signs of backing down, citing the assistance the measure would spread to people, businesses and state and local governments.

“If congressional Republicans want to oppose all that, my response is: Good luck,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor.

By Wednesday evening, the most suspense was over a decision anticipated from Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate’s nonpartisan arbiter of its rules, that promised enormous political and legislative consequences.

The relief bill includes a provision that over five years would hike the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. The parliamentarian is involved because Democrats are pushing the overall $1.9 trillion measure through Congress under special rules that will let them avoid a Senate filibuster by Republicans.

Those same rules prohibit provisions with only an “incidental” impact on the federal budget because they are chiefly driven by other policy purposes. The parliamentarian decides if a provision passes that test.

With Republicans strongly against a minimum wage increase, the only way for it to survive is by including it in a filibuster-proof bill like the COVID-19 relief measure. To end a filibuster, Democrats would need 60 votes, an impossibility for them in the evenly divided 50-50 Senate.

If the parliamentarian decides the minimum wage provision can remain in the bill, it would be a major boost for its proponents. But there would be no guarantee the measure would survive because some moderates oppose it or want it dialed back. That suggests grueling bargaining on its final form would lie ahead.

A decision by the parliamentarian that the minimum wage hike must fall from the bill could be fatal, but not necessarily. Democrats could employ a rarely used procedural move to muscle the minimum wage provision into the bill with just 51 votes anyway, but it was unclear if they could muster enough support to do that.

The minimum wage has stood at $7.25 since 2009. Winning the increase is a top priority for progressives at a time when Democrats control Congress and the White House.

The overall bill would provide millions of Americans with $1,400 direct payments to help them weather the pandemic that’s stalled much of the economy for a year and killed half a million people. It contains billions of dollars for vaccines and COVID-19 testing, schools, state and local governments and emergency jobless benefits while providing tax cuts or payments for many families with children.

In a sign of hardball politics ahead, top Republicans suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Schumer squeezed money into the bill for their own states.

McCarthy said the bill had $100 million to help extend the San Francisco area’s BART commuter rail system south to San Jose. That project was approved previously by the Trump administration and is not in Pelosi’s San Francisco district, a top Democratic aide said.

McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., suggested Schumer had won money for a bridge connecting upstate New York to Canada. A senior Democratic aide said the bill contains $1.5 million for the bridge, which is in the district of Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. The aide said it was requested in 2020 by the Trump administration’s Transportation Department, which was headed by Elaine Chao, McConnell’s wife.

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8 thoughts on “GOP rallies solidly against Democrats’ $1.9T virus relief package

  1. A little pork here little pork there. All in the name of a pandemic. What’s a couple more Trillion? I’m sure our great great great grand children will understand.

    1. A reminder the Republican alternative is …. nothing. Except maybe another tax cut for rich donors.

    2. There almost a trillion unspent from previous relief measures, the AP leaves out. Plus the 350 billion to states in this 1.9, has been written so the blue states that have locked down longer would get larger shares of the 350B. It also is not tethered to just covid replenishment, states can bail out poor prior spending habits too.

    3. I used to go to Florida on vacation and I would meet a lot of people in their 50’s that were retired civil servants from NY that were comfortably living on almost or in some cases more than six figure pensions. Yes, they proudly told me about it when I asked them how they could be so young and retired. I never realized that I would be working until the day I die to support people from other states with such ridiculous pension deals. Thank you Joe for bailing them out with my money and theirs not a thing I can do about it.

  2. I was curious about a $15 minimum wage and how that might affect me so unscientifically I simply looked up average wages for McDonalds workers in Indiana and it ranges from $9 to $10/hr for most of the workers and $12-15/hr for management, not including the operations manager whose salaried. I suspect raising the bottom to a $15 minimum would cause them to have to bump people up proportionally because your not going to pay everyone the same lowest amount. There is zero chance of me paying $15 or more for a McDonalds meal or whatever it would be so to me this is a huge problem if they raise this to $15 across the country. Would they just pay all workers $15/hr and no raises, no incentives and no desire to move up or as I suspect would they continue to automate as much as possible and have fewer people working there. Just food for thought (pun intended). It just doesn’t sound like a good idea to me that would help people needing jobs.

    1. Because it is NOT a good idea. Loss of jobs, increase in costs, increase in prices and those that are the recipients of the increased minimum wage end up with the exact same standard of living with the exception of those who are now unemployed or those who own small businesses who are out of business. $15 an hour is pandering and a tactic to make Republicans who oppose it look bad or the Dems really are that stupid; I will go with the latter.

    2. I agree with you Lance because their is no way this doesn’t eliminate a lot of jobs as people are not going to be willing to pay a lot more for things. I get it that it will not affect all business’s, but their are plenty that it will.