On Thursday night, President-elect Biden unveiled his American Rescue Plan. The new coronavirus pandemic relief package totals $1.9 trillion and would include another round of $1,400 stimulus checks for individual Americans. The proposal allocates $130 billion towards reopening schools, $25 billion for rental assistance, and another $20 billion to expand coronavirus testing. Included in the package is also a plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.
In a speech last week, Biden pledged to work across party lines to pass the relief plan, emphasizing the fiscal and ethical urgency “to move quickly to get the American Rescue Plan to the American people.” He passionately asserted, “We not only have an economic imperative to act now. I believe we have a moral obligation.” Nonetheless, the plan has already drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle.
Later Thursday night, the Republican Study Committee took to Twitter to condemn the plan’s enormous price tag, noting that “the stimulus checks in Biden’s ‘relief’ plan cost as much as the inflation-adjusted cost of World War I.” Others on the Right pointed out that a rise in the minimum wage would place further economic strain on small businesses already struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.
In an open letter to the President-elect, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) knocked the bill, urging Biden to instead pursue standalone legislation for stimulus checks, writing, “at a time when they need it most, we must recognize the positive message it would send to the American people and the entire world if Republicans and Democrats came together on January 20, 2021, to put the American people first.”
While Republican backlash was to be expected, the bill has also drawn criticism from many on the Left. Though Biden had promised $2,000 checks ahead of the Georgia runoff elections, actual proposed payouts fall $600 short. In a Thursday interview with The Washington Post, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for retroactive unemployment benefits and was quick to point out the bill’s shortcomings: “$2,000 means $2,000. $2,000 does not mean $1,400.”
Though a majority of Democrats have expressed their support, including Senator Bernie Sanders, who praised the plan as a “very strong first installment,” others on the progressive fringe of the Democratic Party have backed Ocasio-Cortez’s call for more radical relief. Among them are freshmen Cori Bush of Missouri and Jamaal Bowman of New York who complain Biden’s plan does not go far enough. Both tweeted Thursday night in support of AOC’s demand of $2,000 stimulus checks. Given the Democrat’s slim 222-211 majority in the House, party unity could prove crucial to the bill’s passage.
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