Jan 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden's one-two stimulus punch

Joe Biden looks on as attorney general-designate Merrick Garland speaks today in Delaware.
Joe Biden looks on as his attorney general-designate, Merrick Garland, speaks in Wilmington, Del. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering asking Congress to help suffering Americans in two steps: give them the balance of their coveted $2,000 coronavirus payments, followed by a $3 trillion tax and infrastructure package.

Why it matters: Biden is confident he can get multiple packages through Congress after Democrats won both Georgia Senate elections. The president-elect's team also wants to get cash in Americans' hands as quickly as possible, according to people familiar with the matter.

The big picture: In July Biden rolled out his Build Back Better plan, which includes billions of dollars for caregivers, incentives for manufacturers and some $2 trillion for green jobs and infrastructure spending.

  • He proposed paying for this plan with a series of tax increases on the wealthy, including taxing capital gains as regular income and increasing the marginal tax rate for top earners to almost 40%.

Democrats are concerned that if they miss early opportunities to combat COVID and reverse its broader effect on the economy, the twin problems could cripple the rest of Biden’s presidency.

  • The first bite would come in the form of $1,400 payments that would be added to the $600 in cash Congress approved last month. Also included in this quick-hit package would be money for state and local aid, as well as funding for vaccine distribution.
  • Biden's push for a tax and infrastructure plan, which is part of his “Build Back Better” program, will slide to later in the spring and be considered under budget reconciliation rules.
  • They allow the Senate to pass measures with a simple majority, instead of a more challenging filibuster-proof 60 votes.

Reverting to Plan A: Biden is essentially dusting off his pre-election plans, back when many of his economic and political advisers assumed that if he won the presidency, he would carry the Senate along with him.

  • Those ambitions were thrown into doubt when Republicans ran strong in the Senate on Election Day and Democrats' only hope for regaining the majority was if they won the two uphill runoff elections held Tuesday.

Be smart: Biden’s blitz for a quick spending measure could allow him to build goodwill with Senate Republicans for a bigger package in the spring, especially if it includes liability protection the GOP wants for businesses fearing coronavirus lawsuits.

  • It also will be an early test of how cooperative Senate Republicans will be as the minority party.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note that Biden's Build Back Better plan includes $2 trillion for green jobs and infrastructure spending, not $4 trillion.

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