President Joe Biden’s first Covid-19 relief package is underway and already facing obstacles in Congress. He plans to add provisions that delver direct aid to American families, businesses and communities, and a major focus on coronavirus testing and vaccine production and delivery as the pandemic continues to surge. Specifically, Biden’s proposal includes $20 billion allocated to a national vaccination program, $1,400 stimulus checks and raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. But progressive lawmakers want larger checks, and some Republicans are arguing that the nearly $2 trillion relief plan is too expensive.
Early critiques came from Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney, two bipartisan group senators who helped craft the framework for December’s stimulus package have challenged the $1.9 trillion plan. GOP senators find this current relief proposal too expensive because less than a month ago, Congress passed the $900 billion Covid-19 relief package right before the Christmas break. Republican, Senator Susan Collins, raised concerned about the Biden’s proposal. She agreed that additional funding is needed for vaccine production and distribution however, there is no need for a package of this size and scope. Collins also believes that the minimum wage increase should be separate from the relief package. Most Republicans think that it should focus solely on the persistent pandemic and include assistance for rural hospitals, they are getting hit hard. Creating a more targeted package that addresses unmet needs from the previous relief package. Biden is adding another $1.9 trillion to the $4 trillion funding that Congress has previously provided for COVID-19 relief in part is unnecessary and very costly.
On the other hand, progressive Democrats are asking Biden to consider a higher price tag that includes the $2,000 stimulus checks, which he previously said he supports. Democrat Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said Biden’s stimulus proposal isn’t enough for Americans, “$2,000 means $2,000. $2,000 does not mean $1,400,” Ocasio-Cortez told The Washington Post. Senate majority leader Charles Schumer, a democrat from NY, wants to increase the size of the bill to ensure that more Americans and businesses are receiving aid during the pandemic but is willing to compromise to push the bill through as soon as possible to get aid to the many struggling Americans trying to feed their families. Thus, it will not be difficult for Biden to garner support from the democrats to support the bill.
Biden’s relief package created a the stir up from both sides, quickly attracting criticism from advocates on the left and right. With the Republicans wanting a confined and targeted package and the Democrats wanting to increase funding and stimulus checks, it will be interesting to see what is passed in this proposed bill. Biden’s administration is insistent on bipartisanship which is key for this package and both sides are working tirelessly to do so. Shifting from a callow president to a more seasoned one, there is more potential for bipartisan support. Democrats might also have more success with passing progressive policies, especially since they now control the House and the Senate. Nevertheless, Biden’s Covid-19 relief package as well as his other executive orders is a top priority for his administration and will set the tone for his first term in office.