President Biden has proposed a coronavirus pandemic relief bill with a $1.9 trillion price tag. That’s the bare minimum required to provided continued care for Americans who are diagnosed with the virus, to meet the massive expense of producing and distributing vaccinations, to keep state and local governments up and running, to assure than unemployed and under-employed Americans will be able to feed their families and remain in their homes, and to begin to get the U.S. economy up and running after some of the most severe setbacks since the Great Depression.
Congressional Republicans have responded with obstructionist strategies that are delaying action on the president’s proposal. Their resistance insults essential workers and disregards the sacrifices that the American people have made since the pandemic began to take hold almost a year ago.
Biden has struck a proper balance, saying, “I support passing COVID relief with support from Republicans, if we can get it, but the COVID relief has to pass, no ifs, ands or buts.”
Unfortunately, Senate Republicans are unwilling to work with the president in honest or meaningful ways. Ten Republican senators have told Biden he should cut his relief proposal by more than two-thirds, to around $600 million. The rest of the GOP caucus is even more recalcitrant. Many have adopted the stance of Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who claims — falsely — that relief packages passed in 2020 were “way more than we needed and more than enough.”
Republicans like Johnson will never be sincere negotiating partners. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the truth Biden and Senate Democrats need to recognize.
Democrats have the power, using the budget reconciliation process that was designed to thwart filibusters and get around obstruction, to pass Biden’s COVID-19 relief package without Republican votes. They should use it proudly, and unapologetically — recognizing that Biden was not elected to compromise with Republicans who are not just opposed to addressing the crises he has inherited from Trump but who, in many cases, actively sought to prevent the new president from taking office. To reward the insurrectionists and seditionists who attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 election with “a seat at the table” is not politically necessary. Nor is it politically wise.
Biden was elected president with a margin of more than 7 million votes over Trump. Running against an incumbent who shamelessly exploited all the advantages of his position, Biden secured a higher percentage of votes than any challenger to a sitting president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt upended Herbert Hoover in 1932.
Biden flipped five states that had voted for Trump in 2016 and won the Electoral College with a comfortable 306-232 advantage. Trump bragged when he prevailed in 2016 by a similar margin that he was “winning the Electoral College in a landslide.” Trump's political counselor, pollster, and chief White House apologist Kellyanne Conway amplified that remark with a tweet that announced, “306. Landslide. Blowout. Historic.”
The landslide claim was debatable. But Biden did secure a higher level of Electoral College support — 57% — than George W. Bush got in 2004 or 2000, than Jimmy Carter got in 1976, than Richard Nixon got in 1968, or than John F. Kennedy got in 1960. Indeed, Biden finished with a better Electoral College percentage than a dozen presidents who were elected over the past 231 years, including John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
Biden’s Democratic Party won control of the House and Senate. And, while gerrymandering in the House and the disproportionate influence of small and often conservative states in the Senate obscures the advantage, the last several election cycles have made it clear that voters want Democrats in charge and governing. In the House, Democratic candidates won almost 5 million more votes in 2020 than Republican contenders. In the Senate, though the chamber is split 50-50 (with Vice President Kamala Harris’ vote breaking the tie in favor of Democratic control), the members of the Democratic caucus represent 41.5 million more Americans than the Republican caucus.
Despite Biden’s overwhelming victory, a substantial number of Republicans in the House and Senate sought to deny the will of the people — by promoting conspiracy theories and engaging in seditious abuses of their positions. Johnson actually chaired a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that amplified the big lies about the 2020 election that President Trump would on Jan. 6 use to incite an insurrectionist mob to attack the U.S. Capitol. Others, such as Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, supported objections to the certification of Electoral College results.
Those three senators joined 42 of their Republican colleagues in voting last week for a resolution that sought to block Trump’s impeachment trial, making it clear that they will continue to reject the will of the people.
Negotiating with these charlatans will achieve nothing of value. Indeed, it will harm Biden’s ability to deliver on the mandate that the American people gave him to clean up the mess that Trump left behind.
Biden and the Democrats need to flip the script. They don’t need the votes of Johnson, Hawley, Cruz or any of the other Republicans who use words like “unity” and “bipartisanship” to demand untenable concessions. They need to reject compromises with seditionists and obstructionists. In so doing, they can prove that elections really do matter, and that a Democratic president and Congress can deliver for the American people.
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