The U.S. House of Representatives passed a $1.9 trillion Corona aid package on Wednesday. The Democratic majority prevailed over the Republican opposition. Almost all of the House members toed their respective party lines. Only one Democrat voted against the package. The Senate, the smaller chamber of the U.S. Congress, gave its approval over the weekend. The package consists, among other things, of financial aid for families, aid for the unemployed and needy, and funds for schools and universities, and is intended to boost the economy in the United States. President Joe Biden still has to sign it into law.
Biden had made no secret of the fact that he counts the Corona aid package among the most important projects of his presidency. The gigantic $1.9 trillion bill, he said, would not only lead the country out of the crisis, but also transform America's economy: The Biden administration would take care of those who could not help themselves, was the message.
Biden's allies have for days been promoting the package to the public as a catalyst, as it were, into the post-Covid era. "It comes down to leadership," said Hakeem Jeffries, a member of the House caucus leadership, for example, adding, "Vaccination rates are up, infection rates are down, $1400 checks for citizens are on the way. And that's just the beginning."
Closing his own ranks
Biden plans to address the public from the White House and travel around the country to explain his policies. His confidants are spreading the word that the president thought it was a mistake that Barack Obama did not more aggressively promote his economic stimulus package at the time of the financial crisis. He does not want to repeat that mistake, he says. Even before the bill was passed, it was said to be a personal triumph for Biden. He had not only pushed through financial aid for families, which cost $400 billion, but also aid for the unemployed and needy, money to boost the vaccination campaign, and funds for schools and universities to help them reopen.
The aid package is supported by a clear majority of the public: 61 percent expressed praise. Biden's personal approval ratings are less positive: They are 51 percent - admittedly higher than Donald Trump's at the same time, but still lower than those of Obama and Bill Clinton. This is one reason why Biden is planning his PR campaign, the message of which - with all due caution - should be: the long, dark winter is over.
The approval ratings reflect the continuing polarization in the country. Biden failed to send a cross-party signal in the negotiations. The Democrats had hoped to gain the support of some moderate Republicans. But they calculated differently in the "Grand Old Party." The party itself is split between a populist and a traditionalist wing: While some are focusing on fundamental opposition, others are rediscovering their fiscal conservative identity. They accuse the Democrats of having loaded the law with leftist ideology. The Democrats counter that they have repeatedly demonstrated in the Corona crisis that they are concerned with the cause and not with party politics. That's why they voted for Trump's stimulus packages last year, they say.
Biden thus has to make do without a bipartisan signal. However, he succeeded in involving potential dissenters in his own ranks in the Senate. He benefited from the fact that the bipartisan General Counsel ruled that the Democrats' plan to link the package to an increase in the minimum wage to $15 violated Senate rules. To be sure, striking down the proposal angered the party's left. But it secured the approval of centrist Joe Manchin, who admittedly later had to be taken to task by the president on another matter. In the meantime, former Senator Biden was back in his old element.
Image by Fernando Zhiminaicela