Mike Pence rallies Republicans to vote against COVID relief bill backed by a majority of Americans

GOP calls former Vice President Mike Pence back to the place where he was almost killed by an angry mob a month ago

By Jon Skolnik
February 24, 2021 8:25PM (UTC)
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Mike Pence (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Congressional Republicans are hoping to trim down an already delayed pandemic relief bill crafted in conjuction with Biden's White House and the Democratic-controlled Congress, despite the fact that large majorities of the American public, as well as much of corporate America, are in support of its passage.

The $1.7 trillion package contains a vast array of provisions including but it not limited to the following relief efforts: $1,400 checks for individuals making less than $75,000, a minimum wage hike to $15 per hour, pension resolution and subsidies for laid-off workers, an extension of unemployment benefits until August, tens of billions of dollars dedicated to a comprehensive vaccine rollout, and an increase of the $2,000 Child Tax Credit. 

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The bill has support from over 150 top business leaders in America, like Stephen Schwartzman, the chairman and CEO of Blackstone, Sundar Pichaithe, CEO of Google, John Zimmer, co-founder and president of Lyft, Brian Roberts the chairman and CEO of Comcast, and John Stankey (CEO of AT&T). 

It also has a wide breadth of support from the American people.

According to a poll conducted by Yahoo News in early February, "Ordinary Americans overwhelmingly favor most of Biden's agenda." Fifty-eight percent of Americans, for example, support Biden's minimum wage increase. Seventy-four percent support $2,000 stimulus checks, which amounts to $600 more than the current provision. 

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Republicans, meanwhile, are attempting to keep all their members in line against the bill as lawmakers set the stage for a floor vote in the House on Friday, calling former Vice President Mike Pence back to the place where he was almost killed by an angry mob a little more than a month ago:

GOP leaders believe that the moment is similar to 2009, when a new Democratic President pushed through a major relief plan with scant GOP backing -- more than a year before their party took back control of Congress, a message that former Vice President Mike Pence privately delivered to a group of conservative lawmakers on Tuesday afternoon.

Indeed, Republicans believe that public opinion will shift on the matter -- eventually.

The bill is expected to receive an even-split vote at 50-50, meaning that, if a single Democrat breaks rank with their caucus, the bill could be scuttled in the Senate. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have signaled their disapproval of the plan's minimum wage hike, casting doubt over whether the bill will successfully be pushed through via budget reconciliation.   

"If the Democrats continue down the path they're on, and that is to not make any attempt to try and get Republican input or ideas," said Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., "It makes it hard for any of our members, even those that might be inclined to do so to vote for it, to vote for anything. So, if it's in its current contours, it's hard to see very many, if any, Republicans being for it, especially given the way the Democrats have approached it."

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Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, echoed Thune's concerns in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, calling "the Biden stimulus" an "unsound economic policy." Romney said to CNN on Tuesday: "I think the leadership in the House and the Senate just wants to blast ahead with reconciliation without any input from Republicans at all, and that's not the way good legislation is crafted. Good legislation has both sides working on things, knocking off the edges, finding a better and better bill."

On Monday, a three-page memo written by Republican Study Committee was disseminated to GOP lawmakers pushing Republicans to challenge Democrats on "all the left-wing items" they are "hoping the public won't find about." 

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However, Democrats have steadfastly maintained that the urgency of the relief package far outweighs and wonkish concerns over specific policy proposals. "All of us will have differences of opinions," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Maine, who has been a staunch supporter of the $15 wage hike, "This is a 1.9 trillion dollar bill, I have differences and concerns about this bill," he said, "but at the end of the day we are going to support the President of the United States."


Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, AlterNet, and The New York Daily News.

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