All signs indicate that the Biden Administration is working toward making good on the promise of the $1,400 checks that it stated it would send upon taking office with Democratic control of the House and Senate. But the President made waves last week when he hinted at support for a proposal that would more significantly target them as part of his $1.9 trillion stimulus package.
To review, let’s look back at the previous two rounds of stimulus checks that were distributed in spring 2020 and then in December 2020. Full amounts went to Americans that made up to $75,000 or couples that made up to $150,000 combined. Under a targeted approach, the thinking is that checks would only go to Americans making up to $50,000 as solo income earners or to couples making up to $100,000. It’s quite the change from how previous stimulus checks were distributed, and this round of aid could completely bypass middle-class Americans.
This more targeted approach is more in line with a skinny package proposed to Biden by 10 Republican Senators last week. Part of that proposal sought to distribute stimulus checks to individuals making up to $40,000 per year and couples earning up to $80,000 per year.
While a bill that delivers stimulus money to the Americans that need it the most seems like an obvious call, the prospects of it were met with frustration and disappointment by Democrats in both the House and Senate. While the Democrats have some wiggle room in their House majority, they have none with the Senate deadlocked at 50-50 and with the requirement that Vice President Kamala Harris serve as the tiebreaker. Being that Democrats already needed VP Harris’ tiebreaking vote to move the $1.9 trillion relief plan forward, just one dissenting Democrat could derail efforts when it comes time to vote on the bill yet again. What’s more is that it could look bad politically for President Biden if Americans who received stimulus checks under Trump would no longer be eligible for payment under his plan.
So, will a bill with targeted stimulus checks pass? It’s unlikely that it would receive the support of all Democratic Senators, and it’s even more unlikely that any GOP Senator would vote yes to offset them unless the cost of the package comes down from its current $1.9 trillion mark.
The bottom line is that this is Biden’s first major test of his presidency — and he’s only got one shot to get it right. There are no do-overs. While stimulus checks are just one part of the greater $1.9 trillion package that he’s looking to pass through Congress, it’s part of the package that can have an impact on tens of millions of Americans and could be easily remembered when it’s time to head to the polls yet again.