- No Congressional Republican voted in favor of the Biden rescue plan.
- The vote reflects the widening gulf between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.
- It may signal early difficulties for Biden if he moves to attract GOP support for legislative proposals in 2021.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Not a single Republican lawmaker in either chamber voted in favor of President Joe Biden’s $US1.9 ($2) trillion economic aid package over the past few weeks, reflecting their fierce opposition to an early Democratic legislative priority.
The House voted 220-211 to approve the relief legislation in mostly party-line vote on Wedensday. The legislation encountered a brick wall of GOP opposition as every House Republican voted against it. Only one Democrat defected – Rep. Jared Golden of Maine.
Republicans blasted the plan as a partisan wishlist replete with untargeted spending. “This isn’t a rescue bill; it isn’t a relief bill; it is a laundry list of left-wing priorities that predate the pandemic and do not meet the needs of American families,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said during a floor speech Wednesday.
The bill’s path through the House and Senate illustrates the widening gulf between Republicans and Democrats in Congress a year into the pandemic. After six emergency spending bills totaling $US5 ($6) trillion, the economy’s trajectory is starting to trend upward, though there are 10 million fewer jobs compared to the onset of the crisis.
But Republicans are pushing to slam the brakes on any further government spending in an echo of recent years. Nearly a decade ago, President Barack Obama pushed through an $US800 ($1,038) billion stimulus package aimed at stemming the freefall of the American economy after the financial crisis.
That measure drew some GOP support. Every House Republican voted against the bill in February 2009. However, it eventually garnered the support of three Republican senators in the upper chamber as Democrats at the time pressed to keep the bill’s price tag in check over deficit concerns.
Many economists say that step stymied the economic recovery for several years, an experience that Democrats are determined to avoid now. Democrats pushed through the legislation using a maneuver known as budget reconciliation. That allows bills to be approved in the Senate with a simple majority of 51 votes instead of 60.
Right-leaning experts argue Democrats cut out Republicans from the drafting process. Biden rejected a $US618 ($802) billion stimulus counteroffer put forward by a group of 10 Senate Republicans in February. That drastically smaller aid plan ultimately went nowhere.
“They were completely ignored,” Brian Riedl, a budget expert at the libertarian-leaning Manhattan Institute, said in an interview. “Democrats put out a $US1.9 ($2) trillion bill, barely moved an inch and there was no attempt at compromise.”
He added: “Republicans are more concerned about drawing a line in the sand, and spending money more smartly in a recession.”
Others on the left, however, say that Republicans are less willing to negotiate a middle ground with Democrats.
“It’s the latest indication of how polarized the Republican Party has become, despite the fact it’s overwhelmingly popular with the American people,” Jim Manley, a former senior Democratic aide, told Insider. “They were prepared to vote no.”
That hasn’t prevented some Republicans from attempting to take credit of components of the massive rescue legislation. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississsippi tweeted in support of a provision that would provide $US28.6 ($37) billion in “targeted relief” to restaurants. It triggered criticism from Democrats who pointed out he rejected the stimulus bill.
“I’m not going to vote for $US1.9 ($2) trillion just because it has a couple of good provisions,” Wicker told reporters afterwards.