The Stimulus that Wasn’t
Democrats are overplaying their hands on the Stimulus and it will cost them in the long run.
Since late last year, Washington has been abuzz about writing $2,000 checks for people who made less than $75,000 in either 2019 or 2020. Perhaps in no small part because of the failure to pass legislation that would have written a third check for Americans who may or may not be struggling to make ends meet, Democrats now have full control of the federal government. Joe Biden and other leaders have all promised us that “help is on the way” and have been working to snake a $1.9T bill through Congress and onto President Biden’s desk.
It has now been over a month since Joe Biden took office, the distraction that was other Senate business has passed, and there still has not been any stimulus. I am not so naïve to believe that they can just whip up a $1.9T bill and shoehorn it through budget reconciliation to become law in a matter of weeks, but it does seem that Democrats and their precious stimulus are going nowhere fast.
The single greatest impediment to passing the wasteful and pork-filled “stimulus” is the proposed increase of the Federal Minimum Wage to $15 per hour. The current Federal Minimum Wage is $7.25 per hour and the average minimum wage across the nation is a little under $10 per hour with states ranging from as low as $4 per hour for small businesses and special exceptions to $15 per hour in Washington, DC.
Justin wrote an excellent piece detailing all of the problems with raising the Federal Minimum Wage, so I will not spend time talking about how destructive the idea is. However, the push to get this done now when Democrats have narrow majorities in the House and the Senate is counterproductive and will more than likely result in the entire bill failing on the Senate floor.
Frankly, they don’t have the votes to pass a minimum wage increase. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have publicly said that they would oppose such an increase and, if history is any guide, they will not be backing down any time soon. Without their votes, there is little hope of passing this part of the bill. If Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) isn’t willing to compromise on this, the stimulus will not pass the Senate and we will have another round of the blame game and no stimulus.
What many progressives and Democratic leaders seem to forget over and over is that they do not have the kind of overwhelming majority they think they have. (To be fair, many Republicans forget this too, especially when talking about voter fraud in recent elections).
Democrats are overplaying their hand yet again and the ones who will be most hurt by it are the people they claim to represent. The Senate is split evenly at 50–48(50) with Vice President Kamala Harris being the deciding vote that technically gives Democrats control of the Chamber. The five most powerful Senators are not Charles Schumer (D-NY), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), John Thune (R-SD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Bernie Sanders; the five Senators who will determine what bills pass and what bills don’t are Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Mitt Romney (R-UT).
If these five do not support a bill, there is a very good chance it will not have the votes to pass. These few Senators are willing to buck their Party and choose principles and people over power. America would be better served by a larger Problem Solvers Caucus and more members of Congress willing to actually cross party lines and work on bipartisan solutions to national problems.
Instead of rushing to the fringes, Democrats should be trying to govern from the Center and accomplish something — even if it isn’t everything the rabid base wants. Majority parties that fail to govern lose elections, and 2022 will probably not be a good year for Democrats or incumbents in general.
Historically, the President’s party suffers losses in the mid-term elections. When you add in the redistricting process and a failure to govern, many incumbents could be in for a fight for reelection from both the Right and the Left.
Mark Kelley (D-AZ) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA) will have to win a full term without Trump on the ballot to increase turnout and fundraising in states that may be turning purple but aren’t quite blue yet. If public opinion turns against Senators who ran on promises they couldn’t keep, the Chamber could flip back to Republicans in the final two years of Joe Biden’s term.
With such narrow margins, if Democrats really cared about getting help out as quickly as possible, they would not be sticking partisan pork into the stimulus like minimum wage increases and extra money for schools that haven’t spent the money they were given last year. Whether or not additional aid is needed can be debated and the question of how to get help into the hands of people who need it most is something we should think about, but shoehorning a poison pill legislative change into a budget bill is not going to help anyone.