What is the GOP Doing?

Opposition to the Covid relief bill makes no sense.

Photo by James Hammond on Unsplash

What is the GOP doing?

I respect them. Not their policies, which favor the rich or the angry (or the angry rich), or their politicians, who proved spineless during the Trump era, but I do respect their game. The establishment. The old boys club.

The party that blocked President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, claiming it was too close to an election, only to usher in President Trump’s nominee after voting in the next election had already begun. You hate it, but you respect it. It is a brazen pursuit of power, a minority hellbent on ruling.

Normally, Republicans pick their fights well, which is why I was so surprised that not only are they uniformly against the Covid-19 relief bill, but their opposition is so strong that they are willing to die on this hill.

Let’s consider the bill’s popularity.

A month ago, 59% of voters approved the bill. A robust majority for sure, but there was still some wiggle room. Two out of every five voters had reservations about the legislation.

The GOP war machine went to work. Party leadership, in well-placed media hits, began calling the bill “Pelosi’s payoff to progressives.” (Score one for alliteration!) Talking points which framed the legislation as nothing more than a collection of non Covid-related, left-wing proposals were dispersed. Koch funding about the bill’s size flooded West Virginia airwaves in an attempt to persuade moderate Democrat Joe Manchin to vote against it.

What are the results? The bill’s popularity, according to the same pollster that conducted the first survey a month ago, increased to 72%.

Well done, guys.

I’m not sure if 72% of Americans could agree on anything, let alone a massive legislative effort. A hypothetical bill guaranteeing newborn puppies to all those who seek them wouldn’t even garner this much support.

The popularity of the bill most likely stems from what’s in it. Stimulus checks of $1400 headline the measure, along with rental assistance, supplies, and a federal extension of unemployment benefits are also included.

The bill is truly massive: increasing the child tax credit, more money for the Paycheck Protection Program, money for particularly hard hit industries (like restaurants, bars, and venues), and aid to help schools reopen.

Yes, the bill would help struggling families. But it would also help end the year long scourge of the coronavirus.

There will be a moment, perhaps this summer or perhaps later, where a euphoria will take hold in this country. People will be free of the constraints of the virus, and safe from the danger it caused. Democrats will enjoy the political benefit of this moment. Republicans will not.

Are there any particularly compelling reasons not to support this bill? It seems as if GOP opposition is broadly twofold: aid to state and local governments and the overall size of the package.

Let’s start with local aid.

The Republican thinking is:

  1. Blue states are poorly run.
  2. Blue states would need bailouts regardless of the pandemic’s effects.
  3. Red state tax dollars shouldn’t bail out blue state incompetence.

I would disagree. Of the fifteen states that are most dependent on national funding, fourteen are Republican-run. So maybe red states are the ones poorly run. The local aid isn’t random, it’s a specific amount for a specific problem. Covid devastated state economies, and this money will just shore up the shortages.

Besides, red states are getting checks too.

Shockingly, state and local aid actually polls better than the overall bill itself. A Morning Consult survey found that 74% of voters, including 65% of Republicans, believe the federal government should be responsible for “helping states during the coronavirus pandemic.”

In terms of the overall size of the bill — yes, it is large. The price tag is the sum of the individual parts, as listed above. Nothing more, nothing less. Simply put, it’s a big bill because it’s a big problem.

Normally I understand Republicans. No, that doesn’t mean I agree with or endorse them, but their shrewdness is laudatory.

But I don’t understand their opposition to Covid relief.

political science researcher. former valedictorian. reader/writer. host of “Politics Mostly” podcast.

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