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Biden's Covid stimulus bill means $1.9 trillion in relief. Why didn't Republicans vote for it?

Millions of Americans need help after a year of living with the pandemic. The GOP responded with one word: No.
Image: People wait in line at a food pantry in Everett, Mass., on Dec. 19, 2020.
People line up at a food pantry in Everett, Massachusetts, in December 2020.Joseph Prezioso / AFP via Getty Images file

On Wednesday, the House voted to pass President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 relief bill, with zero Republican support.

The Republican Party seems to be down with acquiring power at any cost.

It appears the same congressional Republicans who in 2017 were giddy about supporting a tax cut that would add $1.9 trillion to the federal deficit now oppose Biden’s Covid-19 relief bill with that same price tag.

Now, is that because:

A) GOP members of Congress are rooting for the economy to fail because they believe it helps them win in 2022?

B) GOP members of Congress only support policies that help their wealthy donors?

C) All of the above.

It’s not as if there’s any doubt that Americans need help from sea to shining sea. Currently, more than 18 million of our fellow Americans are still receiving some form of unemployment benefits.

On March 4, the Labor Department reported that 748,000 Americans had filed first-time unemployment claims the week before — that’s 32,000 more than the week before that. For perspective, the average number of Americans filing for such claims before the pandemic was in the neighborhood of 200,000 a week.

Black unemployment is currently at 9.9 percent and Hispanic at 8.5 percent — well above pre-Covid levels. (White unemployment is at 5.6 percent — which, if we’re being honest, may also contribute to why the GOP doesn’t care about helping those in need.)

Hunger in America has skyrocketed over the past year, including among children. Over 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed in the time of Covid-19. State and local governments need help to cover budget shortfalls caused by the pandemic, including officials in red states like West Virginia, where the GOP governor has voiced support for Biden's relief measure. In fact, the Covid-19 relief bill provides the red state of Texas $27 billion in aid, the second-highest amount in the country — Florida would see $17 billion, Ohio $11 billion — with aid determined by population and need, not politics.

Black unemployment is currently at 9.9 percent and Hispanic at 8.5 percent — well above pre-Covid levels.

The Covid-19 relief bill also provides direct stimulus payments of $1,400 to individuals, extends unemployment benefits through September, and provides $130 billion in aid to help schools reopen. Yet Republicans in one voice have turned their back on the relief measure that is supported by nearly 70 percent of Americans, including nearly 40 percent of rank-and-file Republicans.

There’s obviously a disconnect between the GOP elite in Congress, most of whom are millionaires in their own right, and the rest of the nation. That's likely because these Washington insiders are laser focused on one thing only: regaining control of Congress in 2022. When you view the GOP’s actions through that prism, it leads to two obvious reasons why they all oppose the bill.

Option A: The GOP is rooting for the economy to fail. I know that may sound harsh, but after the Jan. 6 attack on our Capitol incited by former President Donald Trump and after only 17 Republicans of 261 in the House and Senate voted to hold Trump accountable, the Republican Party seems to be down with acquiring power at any cost.

You see, these Republicans understand that by providing working-class Americans with stimulus payments and unemployment benefits, they will spend that money, which in turn helps the overall economy, since 70 percent of our nation’s GDP is consumer spending. Providing aid to state and local government prevents additional layoffs and loss of services — not something any Republican whose 2022 campaign theme is “the Democrats controlled Washington and look at how bad things are” wants to see.

Or, could it be option B: The GOP’s united opposition to the multifaceted Covid-19 relief bill is because the GOP only cares about the people who can make donations to their campaigns and Super PACs. Indeed, in 2017, when the GOP was considering its massive tax cut, then-Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., stated point-blank, “My donors are basically saying, 'Get it done or don’t ever call me again.'”

There’s no debating the 2017 GOP tax cut disproportionality helped the wealthy, with households making over a million dollars a year seeing far greater savings than the rest of us. In fact, as the nonpartisan organization Tax Policy Center projected, the richest 1 percent of Americans will receive a whopping 83 percent of the benefits of the GOP’s tax cut by 2027. This boondoggle for the wealthy also increased the exemption to pay taxes on estates after death from $11 million to $22 million.

When millions of Americans needed their help, GOP responded with one word: No

You get it. When it comes to adding $1.9 trillion deficit to assist its donor class, the GOP is all in. Conversely, these same Republicans know full well that people collecting unemployment won’t be sending them a check for the maximum campaign contribution allowed by an individual in the 2022 election cycle of $2,900 or making a far bigger donation to a GOP Super PAC.

Then again, as listeners to my SiriusXM show made clear this week while discussing this very topic, it could be option C: a combination of both reasons.

It's hard to say which is more of the motivating factor for congressional Republicans, but one thing is clear: At a time when millions of Americans needed their help, they responded with one word: No.

My hope is that come the 2022 election, voters will respond with that same word when Republicans running for Congress ask for their vote.