Instead, Republicans are comfortable blaming Biden for excluding them from the legislative process and hammering Democrats on the slow reopening of schools across the country – an issue they say will become a powerful political weapon, especially in the major suburban battlefields. If there is a risk of political backlash to line up against Covid aid which is well questioning the public, most Republicans do not see it.
On Tuesday, GOP Senate leaders spent most of their weekly press conference debating the school’s reopening. Thune said Democrats seemed more interested in money for family planning “they don’t want to bring the kids back to class,” while Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said Biden “has gone to the teachers’ union.”
And House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) Recently hosted a conference call with struggling and exhausted parents and offered them an online forum to share their stories.
“This is total bullshit, this package we’re getting,” said first-year Rep. Nancy Mace (RS.C.), who reversed her House seat in November. “I’m a single mother who works her tail, desperate to educate her children.”
“And I see the Biden administration opening the border, but not opening our schools,” she added. “How does this put our children first?”
Yet Republicans know the stakes are high. Coronavirus deaths in the United States have now passed 500,000, a grim new milestone. And the relief package is loaded with provisions that enjoy broad bipartisan support, from vaccine money to another round of stimulus checks.
Some of the House’s GOP freshmen – who have yet to have a chance to vote for Covid relief measures – initially questioned whether to support the bill. But GOP leaders in both chambers have unleashed their courier and whip operations against the package, which is expected to secure a floor vote in the House later this week. Few, if any, Republicans in the House are expected to cross party lines and support him.
“As more and more people find out what’s in this bill – and what’s not in this bill – they get more and more furious,” Scalise said, referring to to things like a minimum hourly wage of $ 15, billions of dollars for pension funds and money for public transportation and art. . “Sunshine is the best disinfectant for liberal policies.”
In the Senate, 10 Republicans have sought a deal directly with Biden, but the president and Democratic leaders have taken an approach that can go without GOP votes. To say that these senators are annoyed is an understatement.
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), among those most willing to work with Biden on aid, said she was not yet 100% opposed but was not excited about the price of $ 1.9 trillion from the bill. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) criticized the plan’s “extraordinary waste” and said it was “just crazy” to send $ 350 billion to states and cities.
The back-up plan is a key unity test for the GOP after weeks of bitter infighting sparked by the deadly pro-Trump riots on Capitol Hill last month. Biden and several moderate Democrats are eager to attract a single Republican vote to give the bill a bipartisan vote.
Yet many Republicans are join the Biden agenda, in the hope of stepping away from uncomfortable questions about the party’s identity in the post-Trump world.
Now they are marketing the relief bill as a full offer of pork to the progressives who helped push Biden to power. And very few Republicans say they have any qualms about opposing it.
“What is in it will not be popular,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C.). “It’s bad policy for them. Because the narrative is that they are liberals, they just spend money like there is no tomorrow, that every time there is a crisis they fill it with spending.
Democrats are worried that Republicans don’t mind opposing a bill that votes better than most politicians. Plus, the GOP just lost two Senate seats in Georgia to a unified Democratic campaign for big stimulus checks – and a big pandemic bailout.
“The people are with us,” said Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), One of two Democratic winners last month. The GOP’s unanimous opposition, he added, “would be an example of a partisan perspective inside the Beltway obscuring the judgment of politicians who should work together.
Yet for a GOP that has cut its teeth in the modern era by firmly opposing former President Barack Obama’s hopes of sweeping away health care legislation and energy policy, there is something wrong with it. unifier to club Democrats on politics rather than talk about Trump and their brutal party schism. .
Asked Tuesday whether he should have done more to coerce the more radical elements in his party, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell replied: ‘What you need to focus on is this. is how unified we are today in opposition to what the Biden administration is trying to do. . ”
“It’s not a tough vote when only 10% of dollars goes to a vaccine and vaccine distribution,” added Senator Shelley Moore Capito (RW.Va.), who has tried to seek a bipartisan deal with Biden.
Republicans have focused on the school reopening debate, portraying it as a serious academic and mental health issue for children and parents. And although the Covid relief program includes $ 128 billion for schools to fight the virus, Republicans note that most of the money won’t be spent until 2022 or later, according to the Congressional Budget Office. , non-partisan, while pots of money from previous bills remain unspent.
“This really needs to be tweaked,” said Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), co-chair of the GOP Doctors Caucus. “If we spend that kind of money, what is it currently used to reopen schools?”
The White House, meanwhile, has sent mixed messages about the need to vaccinate teachers to safely resume in-person learning, although Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki repeated this week that this was not a “precondition”. And Republicans have also accused Biden of moving the goalposts after clarifying that he wanted most, not all, K-8 schools to reopen within the first 100 days of his tenure.
First-year GOP rep Ashley Hinson – a mother of two who represents a key swing neighborhood in Iowa – has been at the forefront on the matter. During Monday’s House Budget Committee markup, she tried to attach wording to the relief bill to ensure schools have a plan to reopen before receiving additional funding, but it was rejected .
“I don’t like that I have to vote against this bill,” Hinson said. But, she added: “It is very clear that the Democrats did not want to come to the table on any of the issues. … Americans need to know what’s going on here.