This is my update for Monday, February 8th. First of all, I do want to express my condolences to the family of Republicban Congressman Ron Wright, who passed away yesterday at the age of sixty-seven after being hospitalized for COVID-19.
Mr. Wright is the first sitting member of Congress to pass away after testing positive for COVID, he was high-risk as he had also been diagnosed with lung cancer in June 2019. A special election will be held to fill the late Mr. Wright’s vacant seat. So this is going to be a big week in Congress, House committees will be working on their sections of the relief bill, and the Senate will be starting Trump’s impeachment trial.
The reconciliation package needs to go through a total of nine committees before it will be sent back to the Budget committee to be combined into a single bill that’s ready for a vote on the House floor. So tomorrow will be the Education and Labor committee; Wednesday will be Transportation and Infrastructure, Financial Services, and Agriculture; Thursday will be Small Business, Veterans Affairs, and Energy and Commerce; and then Friday will be Oversight and Reform.
The Ways and Means committee will be working on this from Wednesday to Friday, Ways and Means is the oldest committee in Congress, and they’ll have more work to do than any of the other eight committees I mentioned. At the end of this week, as I said it will be up to the Budget committee to mark up the whole thing and combine the work of all those other committees into one bill.
Finally, the Rules committee will set up a vote on the floor, and once they hold a floor vote the stimulus package will have made it through the House. Remember Democrats want to have this ready by mid-March, the current set of extra unemployment benefits stops going out after March 13th, so the timeline is critical for them at this point.
And again all that committee work starts tomorrow so stay tuned for more Congressional updates as this bill slowly makes its way through the House. Now there have been a few overtures toward bipartisanship during this process, for example Biden met with some Republican Senators last week to negotiate a relief bill they could agree on, but if you’ve been following these updates over the last week you’ve probably noticed a trend moving more toward party lines and away from a bipartisan vote despite Biden’s original intentions.
Politico published an interview with a White House official today who said “It’s going to be very difficult for Republican lawmakers to look their constituents in the eyes and try to explain why they voted against giving them $1,400 checks, why they voted against reopening schools, and why they voted against speeding up vaccinations.
We’re going to keep making the case about why this package matters and Republicans on the Hill are going to have to decide whether or not they’re going to listen to their voters.” So it’s looking like the Democrats are ready to go on the offensive, pass something on their own, and try to appeal to the voters in that way rather than making this about bipartisanship.
There’s a lot of public pressure on Republicans on some of these points, for example a Quinnipiac poll from last week found that 78 percent of Americans support $1,400 stimulus checks vs just 18 percent in opposition, 61 percent support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, and 68 percent support the full $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal.
So instead of looking to the Republicans and trying to get them onboard, Democrats look at those numbers and think hey, what we’re doing is popular, if Republicans want to stand against it then they’re the ones taking a political risk. Of course, things are never that simple in politics, and just because people like the idea of a stimulus now doesn’t mean that Biden will maintain that popularity into 2022 or even throughout 2021.
Public opinion is everything here, especially with the Senate going into midterm elections at a 50-50 tie, which is why Biden has already had fourteen administration officials give interviews on podcasts, radio shows, and TV shows to explain the stimulus and respond to some of the concerns people might have over their plan.
And their hope is that Republicans will see the polls and come to the table, maybe not with the $600 billion plan that was thrown around last week but something closer to the $1.9 trillion that Biden wants to push through Congress over the next few weeks. For example I mentioned Janet Yellen on CNN yesterday, she was discussing the stimulus with Jake Tapper, and that’s something I would expect to see a lot more of over the next few weeks as Biden’s team tries to make their case to the public.
So the stimulus story is going to be heating up this week with committees working on their sections of the bill, kind of a slow news day today at least as far as stimulus goes because we’re just waiting for this all to be discussed in committee.