New Biden relief plan: the $2T Pelosi left out three weeks ago

Remember when Mitch McConnell bet the Senate majority on refusing to take up the direct-stimulus relief bill from the House? How’s that working out? One way or the other, Democrats knew they would eventually get to spend this money. In Joe Biden’s big address tonight on his new agenda, he will roll out a COVID-19 relief and stimulus proposal, less than a month after Congress passed a nearly trillion-dollar relief bill. The price tag so far? A hefty $2 trillion — and counting:

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to unveil a major Covid-19 relief package on Thursday and his advisers have recently told allies in Congress to expect a price tag in the ballpark of $2 trillion, according to two people briefed on the deliberations.

The Biden team is taking a “shoot for the moon” approach with the package, one lawmaker in close contact with them told CNN, though they added that the price tag could still change. The proposal will include sizable direct payments to American families, significant state and local funding — including for coronavirus vaccine distribution and other emergency spending measures — to help those struggling during the pandemic. …

Brian Deese, Biden’s pick to lead the National Economic Council, said Wednesday at a conference that the package will include $2,000 stimulus checks, and address other relief measures like unemployment insurance.

One thing we know now for certain — “shoot the moon” >>> “bet the farm.” When the debate over the direct payments came up before the election, the safest choice would have been to simply order a second round of $1200 payments — but McConnell and Senate Republicans balked. Donald Trump made it clear he wanted to “go big” on direct payments after the election too, even if he waited far too long to insert himself into the negotiations. McConnell balked at that too, even when Trump went public with the $2000 figure. He still had one more chance to help out David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler by allowing them to spearhead an effort to pass HR9051 the week before the special election, but McConnell blocked the bill from a floor vote.

Now, not only will Biden get credit for it if it passes, McConnell can’t keep it from coming to floor any more. McConnell might be able to filibuster it, but Democrats are already planning to use reconciliation to force it through if necessary — and plenty of Republicans might not want to start out 2021 by blockading the new administration’s emergency aid push, especially after the egregious optics of the past week or so. We might have been better off with Pelosi’s last position before the final bill of $2.4 trillion, rather than the combined spending between the two bills of $3 trillion or more. Great job, everyone! 

Anyway. What else can we expect from Biden’s bloated bill? Biden wants another round of child tax credits, in addition to the expanded payments already planned. Some Democrats want that in the form of direct payments too, but one way or the other, it will result in higher costs. We might also get some level of student-loan forgiveness, and we’ll certainly see bloc-grant cash distribution to state and local governments. Essentially, it’s what Pelosi demanded all along, and now can get, thanks to Republicans losing control of the Senate.

All of this won’t actually do much except paper over the real problems with the economy, which are the COVID-19 shutdowns and limitations on in-person commerce. Until we get herd immunity via vaccinations, all this does is apply another Band-Aid for a few months. That may be all we need, though, but you can bet that if it succeeds, we’ll hear nothing except how Biden saved the economy regardless of which parts of the various relief efforts actually worked, how much, and for how long.

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