How Congress Could Send Bigger Stimulus Checks, Fund School Reopening, and Save $1 Trillion
President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill took its first major step toward passage over the weekend. But political circumstances and the current state of the pandemic suggest that Congress ought to reconsider this approach.
In comments to reporters on Saturday, Biden urged the Senate to take “quick action” to pass the bill after the House of Representatives passed it in the early morning hours that same day.
“We have no time to waste,” Biden said, according to a pool report. “If we act now decisively, quickly, and boldly, we can finally get ahead of this virus. We can finally get our economy moving again. And the people of this country have suffered far too much for too long. We need to relieve that suffering.”
Biden has been pushing this message since before he was inaugurated—the basic framework of this $1.9 trillion stimulus bill was announced in early January. He and congressional Democrats have touted the package as an urgently needed response to a still-out-of-control pandemic, a necessary step to getting schools reopened, and a way to help jobless Americans make ends meet until a full recovery is achieved.
That message is at odds with much of the bill itself, which is larded up with things like an increase to the federal minimum wage, funding for a new subway in San Jose, California, and billions of dollars in supposedly urgent school funding that wouldn’t actually be used for years to come. About $312 billion of the bill’s overall spending has nothing to do with the pandemic at all, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), including changes to tax credit programs for parents and an expansion of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance subsidies.
The package would also spend about $500 billion bailing out state and local governments, far in excess of what would repair COVID-19 budget holes. The American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, estimates that states and local governments need about $100 billion in direct aid, while the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank, has called for $225 billion in aid. Part of the disc
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