The Republican Party is desperate—desperate for anything GOP lawmakers can rally around. And we do mean anything. Because any normal party that isn’t driven by an intractable internal war would choose to rally around something that might yield some political advantage.
But instead Republicans have chosen Biden’s wildly popular COVID-19 relief package as their hill to die on … together.
Just on Wednesday alone, two new polls found that at least two-thirds of the American people back President Biden’s plan, with very solid support among Republican voters and independents alike. The Economist/YouGov survey found 66% support with only 25% opposition, making it the most popular major political initiative since the minimum wage hike in 2007, according to previous polling done by the outlet. Politico/Morning Consult polling found even stronger 76% support for the overall $1.9 trillion bill, including 60% of Republicans and 69% of independents.
This fresh polling shows exactly what all the polling has shown—Biden’s COVID-19 rescue package is damn popular. Even the business community is thrilled with it. In a letter sent to a bipartisan group of congressional leaders on Wednesday, “more than 150 senior executives from some of the largest American companies across several major industries” expressed their support for the package, according to CNN.
And yet, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is calling the bill “too costly, too corrupt and too liberal.” Wonder how terribly “liberal” struggling GOP voters will think it is when $1,400 direct payments land in their bank accounts, helping them to put food on the table.
Same goes for the Republican Senate caucus, with Sen. John Thune of South Dakota calling it “way too big to start with” and saying it has “questionable” pieces. Which pieces? Even the supposedly controversial $15 minimum wage hike polls at 56% support, according to YouGov, the more conservative of today’s two polls. And how about the $1,400 payments (79%), extending the eviction ban (73%), and the additional $400 unemployment payments (72%)? Are those the pieces of which Thune speaks?
What’s really going on here is something both my colleague Joan McCarter and I have touched on in different ways—Republicans are returning to a playbook of total opposition/obstruction they fashioned in the Obama era as a way to unify around something. But the entire strategy is antiquated. First off, COVID-19 relief isn’t Obamacare and, second, nothing about the GOP or its base is even remotely the same as it was a decade ago. In fact, congressional Republicans can’t even agree on the basic precepts of supporting democracy and holding accountable a commander in chief who tried to destroy it. Amid that discord, the GOP electorate is splintering.
What congressional Republicans are really admitting by clinging to a losing position is the fact that finding some point of agreement among them is more important than actually finding some point of agreement with the broader American electorate. If that means their chosen position puts them at odds with 70% of Americans, then they’re perfectly fine with trying to fire up that 30% of GOP cult followers.
And if the legislation passes the way Republicans are promising it will—with virtually zero GOP votes—Democrats will be heading into 2022 claiming sole credit for bringing the relief Americans craved, Joe Biden ran on, and Democrats delivered.