- Republicans in Congress started criticising the Biden rescue plan on Friday.
- They railed against provisions to send stimulus checks and warned of a rising national debt.
- “Blasting out another $US2 trillion in borrowed or printed money.. would be a colossal waste and economically harmful,” Sen. Pat Toomey said.
- Many economists favour more relief spending, given the severity of the pandemic and the low cost of borrowing.
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President-elect Joe Biden’s economic rescue package is starting to run into opposition from Republicans on Capitol Hill, lessening odds of a smooth passage in Congress that the new administration is urgently seeking.
Congressional Republicans are assailing its large price tag as well as a measure to more than double the current federal minimum wage to $US15 an hour.
Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas called it “another economic blind buffalo that does nothing to save Main Street businesses, get people back to work, or strengthen our economy” in a statement on Thursday evening.
Other Republicans echoed those arguments on Friday. Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, set to be the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, railed against the $US1,400 boost to stimulus checks along with a $US15 minimum wage provision.
“Blasting out another $US2 trillion in borrowed or printed money.. would be a colossal waste and economically harmful,” he said.
Others cited the growing national debt, given Congress and President Donald Trump poured $US4 trillion in emergency spending to combat the pandemic last year. “We cannot simply throw massive spending at this with no accountability to the current and future American taxpayer,” Sen. Rick Scott of Florida said.
More Republicans are likely to balk at the relief plan’s colossal spending levels as well as the $US15 minimum wage provision. It is unclear in the plan how quick the pay bump for workers would be phased in.
“A $US15 minimum wage is a nonstarter for most Republicans even during a growing economy,” Brian Riedl, a conservative budget expert at the Manhattan Institute, told Insider. “But doing so during a recession would be too heavy of a lift for Republicans.
“Republicans would have a hard time doing that even for President Trump, and there’s no real incentive to give a $US15 wage to a President Biden,” he said.
The opposition could open the door for Biden to pivot and opt for budget reconciliation, a legislative manoeuvre favoured by progressives such as Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
That route would allow Democrats to enact a package with a majority vote without GOP support, paving the way for a government rescue plan containing many Democratic priorities such as enhanced unemployment insurance, aid to state and local governments, and expanded tax credits for low-income families. But that would collide with Biden’s campaign promises to govern as a bipartisan dealmaker.
Many economists back robust spending to combat the pandemic, saying the federal debt should be set aside as a concern for now because interest rates are low and the cost of borrowing is cheap.
Biden argued in favour of a robust response on Thursday evening. “The very health of our nation is at stake,” Biden said in a major speech in Delaware. He added the giant scale of assistance he wants “does not come cheaply, but failure to do so will cost us dearly.”
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