“The price tag will be high,” Biden said earlier this week. “The overwhelming consensus among leading economists left, right and center is that in order to keep the economy from collapsing this year, getting much, much worse, we should be investing significant amounts of money right now.”
Though Congress passed a $900 billion COVID-19 bill in December, the U.S. is enduring peak levels of new infections, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus. On Tuesday, the U.S. recorded more than 4,200 deaths, a single-day record, bringing the nation’s total to more than 381,000 deaths since the onset of the epidemic. The economy also appears to be backsliding, with unemployment claims this week spiking to a new high since August.
The bill would be followed by a broader recovery plan that includes other Democratic priorities, but Biden said he wants to give Republicans a chance to get on board with his first legislative effort as president. Congress will be under strain to quickly consider Biden’s bill, given that lawmakers are still reeling from a Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and the Senate will be dealing with an impeachment trial when it returns Jan. 19. Following the House impeachment vote this week, Biden said, “I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their Constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation.”
If Senate Republicans object to Biden’s first bill, Democrats will likely move to budget reconciliation rules that allow them to pass legislation with a simple majority. With the Senate divided 50-50, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would have the tie-breaking vote.