Speeding Ahead on the Covid Package

Yesterday I got a call from the county health department telling me I could have a covid shot if that day at a mass-vaccination clinic, if I could be there in an hour. So I hustled at got the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Some advance notice would have been nice, but I’ll take what I can get. They gave me an appointment for the second dose in three weeks.

On to current events. The Senate worked through the night to pass a “budget blueprint” that will allow the covid relief bill to be passed through reconciliation.  The vote was 50-50, with Vice President Kalama Harris breaking the tie at five-something a.m. As I understand it, the blueprint will be used to write the Senate version of the bill.

Li Zhou and Ella Nilsen at Vox explain the next steps. There’s still a lot that needs to be done before the bill becomes law. Dems are aiming to wrap it all up by March 14, when current enhanced unemployment benefits expire.

The bad news is that the provision for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour was killed in the blueprint, probably to placate Joe Manchin. I feared that would happen. NY Times:

Proponents of raising the wage believe it can still be included in the final plan, forcing a tough vote for Democrats opposed to the increase but who won’t want to vote against the entire stimulus package.

“We need to end the crisis of starvation wages in Iowa and around the United States,” Mr. Sanders said.

He added that he planned to try to get the phased-in wage increase included in the reconciliation bill, which can be approved on a simple majority vote, circumventing a filibuster which requires 60 votes to overcome. But it is not clear whether the effort will succeed given the strict rules of the process, which mandate that any policy changes directly affect federal revenues.

The increase won’t pass in this Senate outside of reconciliation unless they kill the filibuster. Note that a considerable number of workers in West Virginia earn at or below the minimum wage, and that was before the pandemic. West Virginians would have benefited, big time. Way to go, Sen. Manchin.

However, other than the minimum wage provision, I don’t believe any serious damage has been done to the Biden Administration proposal.

Naturally, Republicans are outraged that Democrats would stoop so low as to pass all this stuff through reconciliation. Note that Republicans’ failed effort to kill Obamacare and successful passage of Trump’s tax cuts used reconciliation.

Greg Sargent:

In the early morning hours on Friday, Senate Democrats passed a measure laying the groundwork to move President Biden’s big economic rescue package via the reconciliation process, by a simple majority. Republicans are already thundering with outrage.

The move does indeed pose a serious challenge to Republicans. But it’s one that runs deeper than merely moving toward passing this one package without them. It also suggests a reset in dealing with GOP bad-faith tactics across the board — and even the beginnings of a response to the Donald Trump era and the ideology loosely described as “Trumpism.”  …

… Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is already denouncing this move. The minority leader railed that Democrats have “set the table to ram through their $1.9 trillion rough draft,” adding: “notwithstanding all the talk about bipartisan unity, Democrats are plowing ahead.”

Get used to it, Mitch. Sargent reminds us that McConnell’s use of filibuster rules effectively destroyed bipartisanship in the Senate for several years. And here is the critical point, for Democrats:

Senior Democrats have begun to articulate the idea that the true way to revitalize faith in government — and in democracy — is by successfully delivering on big-ticket items. Achieving bipartisan cooperation for its own sake will do far less to address deep civic division and disillusionment than robust and effective action on behalf of the common good will.

Exactly. And I also want to quote something Sargent wrote last week:

It’s hard to escape the sense that a new consensus is emerging among Democrats of all ideological stripes in Washington, moderates included, one that is finally getting out from under the long shadows of the post-Ronald Reagan neoliberal era.

Prompted by the massive crises of the moment and underscored by President Biden’s unexpectedly progressive approach, this consensus has moved beyond reflexive skittishness about deficit spending and prioritizes bold government action over centrist compromise as a goal unto itself.

As political scientist Stephen Skowronek recently told Michelle Goldberg: “The old Reagan formulas have lost their purchase, there is new urgency in the moment, and the president has an insurgent left at his back.”

The skunk at the picnic is Larry Summers, the centrist economist who was dumped from Biden’s economic team last year. Summers penned an op ed at WaPo saying that Biden is ignoring too many risks. However, President Biden doesn’t care.

12 thoughts on “Speeding Ahead on the Covid Package

  1. Interestingly the NY Times is not quite right about reconciliation bills: their contents are allowed to affect federal revenue, spending, and/or borrowing. And unless every US government employee is already paid at least $15/hour, a change to the minimum wage should affect spending.

  2. There really is some reasonable argument for not creating a sudden $15 minimum wage across the country. Since a lot of people are getting paid far less than that, there are a lot of companies that would be forced to cut jobs, at least in the short term, and I've heard it said that West Virginia is one of the states it would affect pretty heavily.

    I don't know if there are easy answers. Phasing the new minimum in helps; that means the corner McDonald's has been selling more burgers for a year, and has more money to cover the annual increase.

    One semi-horrible issue arose with a boosted minimum wage in Seattle:independent book stores ran into big problems. See, they can't just bump up their metaphorical burger prices by a nickel or a dime; books come with prices pre-printed on them. There, even phasing the increases in might not be enough… I reckon McDonald's can count on seeing a bigger increase in burger sales than booksellers can look forward to in book sales. 

    That doesn't mean I don't approve of a higher minimum wage; but I'm now less scornful of those who are metaphorically trying to pump the brakes a bit, and save my anger for those who would rather drive into a wall to stop the forward momentum.

  3. "West Virginians would have benefited, big time."

    I was at a Republican meeting recently and not one person was against raising the minimum wage.  The ones who owned service oriented businesses only asked that it not be done all at once.

    Seems like something we can do.

  4. I'm glad former Treasury SUCKretary Summers is no longer part of Biden's economic team.

    When it comes to any enlightened Democratic Party economic policies, Summer's been the turd in every progressive's punchbowl; he's your Mom's required double the minimum-strength brakes on your soapbox car entry; and the parentally demanded curfew approaching just as you're getting to 3rd base, looking towards a score!

    He was one of the largest reasons the D's lost the House in 2010. 

    Not only did he keep the Obama/Biden stimulus far below what was needed, he was also the clown who didn't want to publically trumpet the pretty big tax cut given to the lower and middle class at that time. 

    And the result for holding back on going the full stimulus route?  The recovery took years longer to really take hold.

    And what happened when the Obama administration also inadequately advertised the big tax cut meted out?  VERY FEW PEOPLE NOTICED IT!!!!!  

    And as a result of the slow economic recovery, and a good-sized tax cut going unappreciated, the RepubliKKKLANS won the House back!  They created the Tea Party: A wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries which provided economic cover for the White bigots who were in a white-hot rage over having a Black POTUS.

    Thanks for decades of nothing there, Larry. 

    Now sit in the corner, and sip the cup of hot STFU you're being given!!!

  5. We fought long and hard to get here, suffering the last four years / forty years, glad to see the Dems floor the pedal, hard.

    Reaganism feels like ancient history, like studying Harry Truman at this point, especially for Republicans who are in the Trump cult. Ronnie who?

  6. OT… https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/05/media/lou-dobbs-fox-show-canceled/index.html

    A good and faithful sycophant always get their just reward. I suppose that ole butt sucking Lou is wondering ,What in God's green earth is going on? I tell you what.. schadenfreude doesn't even begin to express my joy unspeakable in seeing that bloated bag of shit get his comeuppance. My stomach used to turn watching him all animated with total bewilderment and pity for us who were so blinded by common decency and revulsion of Trump. He would shake his head in disbelief that we could be so foolish in not seeing the greatness of Trump. The truth goes marching on!

  7. Remember when the USSC was ruled by the moderate in a 5/4 split. Kennedy, back in the day. The Senate is 100 members and once was moderate enough that a good bill could attract some support from the other side. In this ultra-partisanship, whoever is in the majority in a 50/50 split is ruled by the one most moderate person in the majority. 

    This means we might not be able to get the $15 min wage through for two years IF we pick up a net couple of seats in the Senate. Ending the filibuster may not be possible until then. The one thing that can help the Democrats widen their margin is for the GOP to split into two factions.

    In bright red states, a Republican moderate running as a well-funded independent could beat the Trumpster candidate (who will win the primary.) Key to this will be the defection of a majority of independent voters who join with the minority of sane Republicans. If the Democrats can't/don't end the fillibuster, there may be a supermajority on some issues. My point being, kneecapping the GOP doesn't necessarily mean we miss the chance to install a moderate Republican rather than a Trumpster in a state where Jesus couldn't win as a Democrat. 

    • I'm sure the Dems will be ending the filibuster. They have two reconciliation shots in their quiver, and one of them was used today. One remains.

      After that, the filibuster / aka "the nuclear option".


      • To tell the truth, I wish that they wouldn't eliminate it, but that they would make it have a cost. Right now, Republicans can filibuster for free, forcing 60 vote majorities for everything. That's wrong, and stupid, though it didn't seem *as* stupid before Republicans decided to put party over country.

        The filibuster should require votes to *sustain*. And it should be enough that routine filibustering of everything is just not reasonably possible, but low enough that any truly noxious bill can be halted.

        And yes, I know that means stuff like civil rights bills could still be stopped, which sucks, but face it: without a filibuster, Republicans would have privatized Social Security and gutted Medicare.

  8. What a wonderful thing it is to have a leaders with understanding.  It is quite evident that the number of new COVID cases per day is decreasing by looking at the graph of new cases in this country.  This means that the rate of transmission is decreasing.  At last we are seeing results in the right direction.  We are still in a race, with little or no time to waste, to keep new case levels declining.  It is definitely not  the time to party yet, at least in any virus spreading way.  

    It looks like the rate of vaccinations is rising too, and this also makes the rate of transmission decrease.  The sooner we get as many people vaccinated as we can, the faster the number of active cases drops.  So good news here too.

    Mutations are not good news, and the faster spreading variants are working against us.  We seem to be doing a better job at identifying these variants in a timely fashion and intensifying containment efforts when found.  We may not be winning here, but losing slower is an improvement.   

    The big win is when the economy does not need more big debts on the national credit card.  It comes with many lesser wins, of which Maha getting the vaccine counts big IMO.  The stimulus package is just a crutch to get us by the COVID until we get the COVID under control.  This is what Biden and crew understand.  We have no time to waste and we must hobble along with a solid crutch.  Now we properly have the horse in front of the cart.  Lets hope the horse is fast and the cart is strong as time is not on our side.  


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