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Business leaders line up in support of Democrats' COVID relief plan

As the fight over the COVID relief package comes to a head, Republicans are quickly running out of friends.
Image: Joe Biden
President Joe Biden talks with audience members as he waits for a commercial break to end during a televised town hall event at Pabst Theater on Feb. 16, 2021, in Milwaukee.Evan Vucci / AP

In many political disputes, Democrats and Republicans count on outside allies to at least try to sway the outcome. Dems, for example, will look to their partners in labor unions, while GOP leaders will turn to Corporate America for support.

But in the fight over the COVID relief package pending on Capitol Hill, the traditional lines aren't quite so simple. CNN reported this morning that "more than 150 senior executives from some of the largest American companies across several major industries have lined up behind" the ambitious plan Democratic leaders are eager to pass.

The group of executives includes the top executives representing some of the powerful business interests in the US, ranging from bank and investment firms like Goldman Sachs and Blackstone, to technology companies like Google, Intel and IBM, to hospitality companies like Loews Hotels and airlines including American and United Airlines. Top executives from real estate, insurance and utility firms also signed on to the letter.

"Previous federal relief measures have been essential, but more must be done to put the country on a trajectory for a strong, durable recovery," the executives wrote in the letter addressed to bipartisan congressional leaders. The signatories went on to endorse a relief package "along the lines of the Biden-Harris administration's proposed American Rescue Plan."

According to the CNN report, Brian Roberts, the chairman and CEO of Comcast, is among the business leaders involved in this effort. (Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, which owns MSNBC.)

To be sure, there's no reason to assume that congressional Republicans will see the executives' joint letter and suddenly abandon their steadfast opposition to President Joe Biden's proposal. GOP leaders clearly care about Corporate America's wishes, but this isn't a dynamic in which CEOs simply pick up the phone and tell Republican lawmakers what to do.

That said, the bigger picture suggests that in this legislative fight, Republicans are quickly running out of friends. Recent polling suggests the Democratic proposal is very popular, and its opponents have struggled to come up with a case against it. What's more, as floor votes on the plan draw closer, the proposal has picked up the backing of plenty of Republican officials -- including governors and mayors -- from outside D.C.

And now, if CNN's report is accurate, several dozen executives from some of the nation's largest companies want Congress to pass the plan, too.

Politico reported last night that many Republicans are convinced that they'll pay no price for rejecting the legislation. The article quoted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-Mar-a-Lago) saying he believes that if Democrats pass the popular plan, it'll actually be "bad politics" for the majority party, not the GOP.

Given the severity of the crisis, and the likely efficacy of the Democratic response, Republicans are taking a considerable risk to advance a brazenly partisan cause.