Dear Commons Community,
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. yesterday proposed a $1.9 trillion rescue package to combat Covid-19 and the country’s economic crisis. Biden’s plan signals a shift in the federal government’s pandemic response in lieu of the “look the other way” approach of President Trump for the past several months.
The package includes more than $400 billion to combat the pandemic directly, including money to accelerate vaccine deployment and to safely reopen most schools within 100 days. Another $350 billion would help state and local governments bridge budget shortfalls, while the plan would also include $1,400 direct payments to individuals, more generous unemployment benefits, federally mandated paid leave for workers and large subsidies for child care costs. As reported by The New York Times.
“During this pandemic, millions of Americans, through no fault of their own, have lost the dignity and respect that comes with a job and a paycheck,” Mr. Biden said in a speech to the nation. “There is real pain overwhelming the real economy.”
He acknowledged the high price tag but said the nation could not afford to do anything less. “The very health of our nation is at stake,” Mr. Biden said, adding that it “does not come cheaply, but failure to do so will cost us dearly.”
Mr. Biden took swift action to shape the agenda at a time of national crisis and a day after President Trump’s impeachment in the House. While it reflects the political shift in Washington as Democrats take control of Congress, support for Mr. Biden’s program will immediately run into challenges, starting with the possibility that a Senate trial of Mr. Trump might delay its passage.
It is also unclear how easily Mr. Biden can secure enough votes for a plan of such ambition and expense, especially in the Senate. Democratic victories in two Georgia special elections last week gave Mr. Biden’s party control of the Senate — but only with a 50-50 margin after Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote. Mr. Biden will have to compensate for any defecting moderate Democrats with Republican votes at a time of scarce bipartisanship.
Mr. Biden said that lawmakers would need to come together for the good of the country, and that “unity is not some pie in the sky dream — it’s a practical step to getting the things we have to get done as a country, get done together.”
His speech came at an incredibly challenging moment, as virus cases continue to climb, millions of workers remain sidelined and America’s partisan divisions are threatening to tear it apart. A week after a mob stormed the Capitol to disrupt Congress’s certification of Mr. Biden’s win, Washington has come to resemble an armed camp, with steel barricades being erected across the city and armed law enforcement policing the streets.”
This will surely be Biden’s first major test of how much he can get done with the Congress.