Republicans have one goal for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package: to erode public support for the rescue plan by portraying it as too big, too bloated and too much wasteful public spending for a pandemic that’s almost over.
Senate Republicans prepared Friday to vote lockstep against the relief bill, taking the calculated political risk that Americans will sour on the big-dollar spending for vaccination distribution, unemployment benefits, money for the states and other outlays as unnecessary, once they learn all the details. Reviving a page from their 2009 takedown of Barack Obama’s costly recovery from the financial crisis, they expect their opposition will pay political rewards, much like the earlier effort contributed to the House Republicans' rise to power.
It’s a tested strategy but comes at an uncertain, volatile time for the nation. Americans are experiencing flickers of optimism at the one-year anniversary of the deadly outbreak as more people are vaccinated. But new strains of the virus and a still shaky economy could unleash another devastating cycle of infections, lockdowns and deaths. More than 500,000 Americans have died.
So far, public support for Biden’s approach to the pandemic is high. Overall, 70% of Americans back the Democratic president’s handling of the virus response, including 44% of Republicans, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Biden and the Democrats backing him warn that now is not the time to let up on aid - better to risk doing too much, than too little. They say the costs of paring back the rescue risk stalling out the economic recovery, as many believe happened in 2009.
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