By Tom Ozimek
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) urged President-elect Joe Biden to bridge partisan divides in Washington and push Congress to adopt a narrow bill that would deliver $2,000 stimulus checks rather than pad relief legislation with unrelated issues.
“Please do not allow direct payments to the American people to get caught up in the normal political games by adding a wish list of far left or other unrelated priorities to this legislation,” Rubio wrote in a letter obtained by Axios.
“All too often, popular and necessary legislation is used as leverage to secure passage for policies that cannot pass on their own merit,” the Florida Republican wrote. “We have already seen it in the midst of the pandemic when additional funding for small businesses was blocked repeatedly for months on end.”
Rubio was referring to Republican efforts to deliver targeted relief measures that were repeatedly blocked by Democrats, who held out for a more comprehensive package. Democrats and Republicans then deadlocked for months over the bigger pandemic relief bill, with key differences being Democrat demands for more state and local funding, and GOP requests for a liability shield against COVID-19-related lawsuits. Following a hard-fought bipartisan compromise that involved dropping both liability protection and state and local aid demands, the $900 billion pandemic relief bill won sweeping approval in the House and Senate, and was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Dec. 27.
In an apparent bid to head off another round of politically-charged negotiations over the next piece of pandemic-related legislation, Rubio called on Biden to push for quick relief.
“We do not need partisan stunts, more show votes, or cynical ploys,” Rubio wrote. “You have the ability to help break the paralysis in Washington by delivering desperately needed relief. I implore you to rise above the rhetoric and deliver an increase in assistance for American families.”
“It would send a powerful message to the American people if, on the first day of your presidency, you called on the House and Senate to send you legislation to increase the direct economic impact payments to Americans struggling due to the pandemic from $600 to $2,000,” Rubio wrote.
The idea of $2,000 stimulus checks was first floated by President Donald Trump and it quickly won support from Democrats and some Republicans, but not GOP Senate leadership. A narrow bill that would have upped the $600 payments by $1,400 was blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Rubio urged Biden to bridge partisan divides in Washington and send a message of unity by delivering more aid quickly.
“Although I share many of my colleagues’ concerns about the long-term effects of this additional spending, we simply cannot ignore the fact that millions of working class families across the nation are still in desperate need of relief,” Rubio wrote.
“At a time when they need it most, we must recognize the positive message it would send to the American people and the entire world if Republicans and Democrats came together on January 20, 2021 to put the American people first,” he added.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday that a Senate under his control would focus first on passing more emergency COVID-19 relief and confirming Biden’s Cabinet nominees. Following Democrat victories in the Senate runoffs in Georgia, there is a 50–50 split in the upper chamber, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris eligible to cast a tiebreaking vote once sworn in as Vice President on Jan. 20.
The Democratic caucus is poised to renew the push for $2,000 direct payments as part of the next relief bill, but Schumer said it would also include more aid to state and local governments, a long-standing GOP bugbear.
In December, Biden said more pandemic relief would be one of his top priorities after assuming office, and while he didn’t provide a detailed proposal, he said it would include more direct relief as well as state and local funding.
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