Biden Holding Out For Republican Support on Stimulus

This is my update for Thursday, January 28th.  I’m getting questions about Gamestop and AMC and short selling, so I will be releasing a dedicated video on that tomorrow, so let me just put that out there. 

In terms of D.C., I talked yesterday about some of the developments with the ongoing stimulus negotiations, and as I mentioned the Democrats have the opportunity to try to pass a relief plan through budget reconciliation, which only requires 50 votes in the Senate instead of the 60 that you need to get around the filibuster.

Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer recently came out in favor of at least considering reconciliation if they can’t get Republicans to make concessions, and Nancy Pelosi followed them at her weekly news conference by saying “I’m very proud of our committees who have been diligently working on coronavirus relief legislation as a basis for reconciliation should that be needed….We will pass a reconciliation bill, if we need it.

We would hope that we would have bipartisan cooperation to meet the needs of the American people, we would hope that but we’re not taking any tools off the table should they not.” So there’s obviously a lot of momentum behind this in the Democratic Party, and it also functions as a negotiating chip since Republicans know that Democrats can walk away and pass something on their own if necessary.

Now as I said in that video, you can’t use reconciliation to just do anything you want, there are some pretty strict rules about what can and can’t be passed through reconciliation. For example, there has to be a clear connection to the government’s expenses or income, not just an incidental connection, which is one reason why John Yarmuth and some other Democrats have pushed back on the idea that you could pass something like the $15 federal minimum wage through reconciliation.

Yes, a higher minimum wage will affect government income and expenses, but I think most people would argue that that’s more of an incidental effect. And even beyond those restrictions, even if they could come up with an argument that a minimum wage is something that can legally be passed through budget reconciliation, it’s not necessarily clear that every single Democrat would support that kind of move, which is what it would take for them to pass a $15 minimum wage or any other stimulus legislation that way, assuming that no Republicans support a $15 minimum wage.

Unsurprisingly the Republicans aren’t happy about Democrats getting more serious about using reconciliation, they obvious want to have a say in what the final stimulus bill looks like, and here’s what Senator Lisa Murskowski said about it yesterday: “I think it would be wise for the new administration to work to try to get a bipartisan proposal that can be moved….We’re giving an opportunity to come together on important and timely legislation, so why wouldn’t you do that rather than trying to move it through with reconciliation and having a fully partisan product?”

Sources are reporting that Senators Rob Portman and Susan Collins are frustrated with the current situation and that they expected, or at least they wanted the Democrats to take a more bipartisan approach to this legislation rather than the Biden White House just putting this one-point-nine-trillion-dollar proposal out there, and Pelosi and Schumer support it, with little input from Republicans.

Of course the problem here is that the stimulus is time-sensitive, Democrats want to pass something quickly, so they run the risk of either looking ineffective or looking like they didn’t want to come to the table and negotiate legislation that everyone can agree on.

That’s what’s happening in Congress, but Joe Biden clearly has a role to play here as well, and he’s trying to walk the line between coming out in favor of reconciliation and committing to a bipartisan bill. That’s likely going to come down to which provisions the Democrats consider essential and which ones are deal breakers for the Republicans, and at this point it’s hard to say where each side is going to be willing to budge.

CNN reported today that Biden and his team consider the entire bill essential, but that they could be open to tweaking particular provisions, for example by making the stimulus checks more targeted to the people who need them. But overall it doesn’t look like they’re planning to move very far from their initial $1.9 trillion package, which to me indicates that this may lead to a clash over reconciliation, both between Democrats and Republicans and within the Democratic party itself as centrist Democrats decide whether they want to push something through that way or try to work across the aisle.

On top of all that, and adding to the tension we’re seeing between different parts of the Democratic party, a group of fifty-six progressives in the house signed onto a letter from Representative Ilhan Omar to Biden and Harris asking them to consider supporting recurring direct payments instead of a one-time stimulus and extended unemployment benefits.

Representative Omar wrote that “recurring direct payments until the economy recovers will help ensure that people can meet their basic needs, provide racially equitable solutions, and shorten the length of the recession. As we look at the coming year, another one-time round of checks would provide a temporary lifeline, but when that money runs out, families will once again struggle to pay for basic necessities.

One more check is not enough during this public health and economic crisis.“ So this isn’t something that I see as politically viable right now, there’s really no chance that Biden would want to add even more to that $1.9 trillion price tag, but it gives you an idea of how many different interests are at play right now. But the mainstream Democrat position here is something in that $1.9-trillion range, maybe a little less if they want to involve the Republicans in the negotiations, but with control of the Presidency, Senate, and House, there isn’t much of an incentive for Democrats to cave when they have the chance to pass a partisan relief bill through reconciliation, though obviously they couldn’t get everything in the one-point-nine trillion in there.

So Republicans are going to have to pick their battles and see what they can get Democrats to negotiate on, but they just don’t have the leverage to force any major concessions like they did when they controlled the Senate.

OK so that’s stimulus, some Senators are seeking for a vote of censure against former President Trump, this doesn’t quite carry the same weight but also only requires a fifty-vote simple majority instead of a sixty-seven-vote supermajority. Some people think that a censure vote would prevent Trump from running in 2024, but if it came to that then it would end up being decided in court.

Andrew Jackson is still the only President to ever receive a censure from the Senate, they censured him for defunding the Bank of the United States, and even then that ended up being expunged a few years later when his party regained the majority. Just goes to show you folks, some things never change, and even if they manage to censure Trump now it may simply be expunged if and when Republicans get a Senate majority. 

Finally, last story today, Joe Biden signed an executive order this morning ordering federal agencies to review policies that could have a negative impact on Obamacare and initiating a special enrollment period for the federal marketplace from February 15th until May 15th. The last enrollment period ended on December 15th, don’t worry if you missed that, you’ll be able to enroll again in a few weeks.

They’re expecting similar enrollment opportunities in most or even all 50 states, so I don’t know if those dates will be exactly the same everywhere, but whether you’re planning to enroll at the state or federal level that should be opening up very shortly.

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