Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. campaigned as a moderate. He pledged to be a president “for all Americans,” promising “unity” and an end to the acrimony of the Donald Trump years. He has abandoned those pledges in office, however. On Monday, after meeting with a bipartisan group of senators who presented an alternate COVID-19 relief bill, Biden rejected the effort.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki suggested that Biden rejected the alternate bill because it did not provide enough relief for Americans struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Psaki said that Biden agreed with the senators in part, but he “also reiterated his view that Congress must respond boldly and urgently, and noted many areas which the Republican senators’ proposal does not address.”
“He will not slow down work on this urgent crisis response, and will not settle for a package that fails to meet the moment,” Psaki added.
Yet Biden did not reject the package because it failed to “meet the moment” and address Americans’ needs from the COVID-19 pandemic. He rejected the package because it cut out key items from the Democrats’ partisan wish list.
Both the Democrat and Republican bills include measures to speed the vaccine distribution and expand COVID-19 testing, with the GOP bill directing $160 billion in aid. Biden’s plan includes $1,400 checks for a broad swath of Americans, while the Republican bill would send $1,000 direct payments to fewer households, cutting out the richest earners, who would need the money less.
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Yet the real differences between the two bills appear to involve leftist priorities. Biden’s bill includes large payments to school districts, caving to teacher’s unions’ irrational demands before they open schools. The Republican bill would not nix all that funding, but it would decrease the amount. The federal government should expect schools to take up some of the cost for pandemic mitigation, especially considering how many school districts still receive the same level of local tax money even though they canceled in-person instruction.
Biden’s bill would also send $350 billion to bail out states that have mismanaged their budgets for decades. While Democrats bill this measure as a plan to keep police, fire, and other workers on the job, it amounts to a federal bailout rewarding blue-state mismanagement of pension systems. The GOP effort rightly left this out, as it has nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Republican bill also removed the Democrats’ plan to raise the minimum wage to $15-per-hour… by 2025! The Biden bill did include this leftist wish-list item, but it callously extended the $15-per-hour minimum wage increase over years in order to provide Democratic voters an incentive to make sure Republicans do not win in 2024 — a disgusting political calculation.
Despite Biden’s pledges on unity and bipartisanship, his insistence on liberal wish-list items should not surprise anyone. Back in March 2020, Democrats suddenly blocked a COVID-19 relief bill — after a bipartisan team of then-Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had worked out numerous compromises to rush the legislation.
Rather than working to pass the bipartisan bill, Senate Democrats blocked the effort and House Democrats presented Pelosi’s version, a bill jam-packed with pet projects like a slate of liberal election “reforms,” a $15/hour minimum wage, Green New Deal standards forcing airlines to report the carbon emissions for each flight, collective bargaining for unions, and more.
Amid this disgusting Democratic ploy, then-candidate Joe Biden released a video condemning then-President Donald Trump and McConnell, echoing Pelosi’s arguments in favor of obstructing the bill.
“President Trump and Mitch McConnell are trying to put a corporate bailout ahead of millions of families. You know, it’s families. It’s simply wrong. We should be focusing on families, but the White House and the United States Senate Republicans have proposed a $500 billion slush-fund for corporations,” Biden says in the video. “Republicans refused to increase social security at the same time, to forgive student loans, to take the necessary steps to stop evictions, ensure food and nutrition for vulnerable families.”
Biden called on McConnell to hold a vote on Democratic priorities, rather than voting on the compromise bill that had been worked out ahead of time. He suggested the compromise bill would not help small businesses, workers, and communities — even though it includes cash pay-outs to most Americans, an increase in unemployment benefits, and more.
President Trump and Mitch McConnell are trying to put a corporate bailout ahead of families. It's simply wrong. We need to be focused on helping hardworking Americans, communities, and small businesses — not handing big corporations a blank check. pic.twitter.com/tMBZm26h3y
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) March 23, 2020
At the height of Pelosi’s obstruction, Joe Biden joined in the game. This obstruction came days after House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told lawmakers, “This is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision,” echoing former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who notoriously said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”
At the time, Republicans rightly excoriated Democrats for blocking the bipartisan bill that offered much-needed relief. Eventually, the Democrats caved, but only after delaying relief in order to achieve their wish list.
“We just watched in the last week 3.28 million people laid off,” McCarthy declared on the House floor. “And yet for days, Democrats stalled this bill. How many people were laid off as the Democrats fought to change the election law or implement the Green New Deal?! How many parents lost sleep wondering how they’re going to make the payments for the next month?! How many small businesses sat around the kitchen table and had to make that decision they never had to before about laying their employees off — [employees] that are like family?”
While the balance of power at the White House and in the Capitol has shifted since March, Democrats’ tactics haven’t. Last March, Republicans worked with Democrats to draft compromise legislation, and then Democrats shoved their wish list in at the last second. Now, Democrats drafted their wish list, and Biden has rejected a compromise bill narrowly tailored to address the COVID-19 pandemic because it doesn’t include wish-list items unrelated to the pandemic.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.