The American Rescue Plan is likely to pass the House of Representative on Tuesday after the Senate voted along party lines to approve the bill in recent days. After months of negotiating with Republicans as well as members of their own caucus, the Democrats managed to pass the US’s largest stimulus package in their history.
The package includes many popular policies including stimulus checks that will provide $1,400 to millions of desperate Americans. This is the third Covid-relief bill passed since the start of the pandemic, but the largest of its kind. For Democrats, this bill represents everything that Donal Trump failed to do to help the poorest of Americans and was a red line for many aspects of the bill. The bill includes unemployment benefits, vaccination funding and further housing funds for low-income individuals. The packages are aiming to ease the financial burden on more than 10 million unemployed American citizens, throughout the remainder of the pandemic. This marks the first major policy success on the part of the Democrats whose leadership have extreme resilience in the face of republican opposition, but the question still remains; what could be the fallout of such a partisan effort?
Joe Biden ran on the mantra of ‘healing the soul of the nation’ which emphasised the need for a more cooperative and bipartisan policy production. However, this bill was far from that, with not a single Republican in the House or the Senate voting in favour of this bill. The most moderate Republican, Lisa Murkowski, criticised the bill for its blasé spending and lack of targeted funding. With no support from the Republicans in the Senate, the Democrats needed to rely on their paper-thin majority by appeasing all ideological factions of their own party to ensure unanimous in-party support. The fate of the bill rested largely on the back of Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia. Manchin’s conservative stance on fiscal policy led to the rolling back of some major policies within the bill, one of which being the highly contentious $15 minimum wage increase. The increase was introduced as an amendment to the bill by Bernie Sanders after a Senate parliamentarian ruled that it should be introduced to the chambers as its own bill. However, Manchin and seven other Democrats voted the amendment down leading to many progressive members, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ilhan Omar, attacking the Senators for a lack of courage on this crucial issue. This has exposed the deep divisions that still exists in the Democratic Party, which will prove to be problematic for Joe Biden who will likely have to pass further bills under similar circumstances.
The lack of bipartisan compromises in this bill poses a future threat for the Biden administration given their promise of a more united front. If this trend continues and Biden runs again in 2024, the road would be considerably more difficult, with independents likely abandoning the winning Biden coalition of 2020.