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Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package is expected to pass, but not without qualms from both sides.Photo: NBC/Getty Images
Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package is expected to pass, but not without qualms from both sides.Photo: NBC/Getty Images

“Just help people.” Progressives question Biden on the $2,000 check threshold

While the GOP is ripping Biden’s plan for being too costly, Progressive Reps question why there’s a threshold for aid at all. 

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It’s looking like President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion aid and stimulus package will pass the Senate. 

For many, this is good news, as the additional $1,400 is intended to aid struggling families and individuals impacted by the health crisis. Vaccines are in the process of distribution, and with a single party in control of the presidency, House, and Senate, many Americans are hoping for increased unity.

Biden himself has established a budding relationship with the Democratic party’s Progressive caucus by moving forward with a barrage of executive orders in the weeks since he assumed office, tackling issues from immigration to the Climate Crisis. 

Partly satisfied with Biden’s initiatives, the Progressive Caucus has advocated for more “sweeping” changes than the presidency has already implemented, remaining skeptical of a rather weak versus aggressive agenda — that has for the most part, merely backtracked from his predecessor’s four years of policy — while working with the administration’s initiatives. 

But by rolling out his executive orders on immigration, climate, and maintaining his commitment to the $1.9 trillion relief package, the president had managed to keep progressives appeased.

Until the details of Biden’s relief package were slowly revealed.

Rather than the $2,000 checks his administration had promised the nation, Biden announced they would be for $1,400.

The rationale is that he is keeping his promise by completing the total amount in conjunction with the $600 delivered to eligible recipients in the last weeks of the Trump administration — to equal $2,000 in total.  

Technically, he’s delivering his promise but it engages in the economic rhetoric that further dramatic spending for COVID-19 relief would prove detrimental to the economy's best interests in the long haul. 

It’s within this thinking that the rifts between the Presidency and progressives were finally exposed, ensuing an increase in vocal backlash. 

Progressives have been campaigning on the premise of delivering the full amount in one payment to their constituents, and many have been pushing for more. 

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) led a group of more than 50 progressives who penned a letter to Biden late January, urging him to support recurring monthly direct payments.

Signers said that any relief package should include recurring payments, with expanded eligibility to include adult dependents and all immigrant workers and their families.

With the Congressional chambers still largely divided despite the Democratic majority, it’s unlikely that Omar’s vision is translated into law in time to aid families, but it highlights the rift that persists.

It was further witnessed after some Democrats and Republicans considered the idea of putting limits on who gets the payments, an idea to which Biden has said he would be receptive.

Instead of a $75,000 income cap on individuals, they are considering an income reduction to  $50,000 — for couples it would go from $150,000 to $100,000.

Sen. Bernie Sanders was one of the most prominently opposed figures. He issued a warning, saying he agrees with a cutoff for high earners, but not for working class people making $50,000 a year. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put it simply, saying that “$50k is wack and we shouldn’t do wack things.”

For both, the rational being that in many municipalities across the nation, $50,000 is already below the poverty line for families.

“We promised people that if we won the Senate, we would send out $2,000 survival checks. They delivered us to victory—and now we MUST deliver. “Targeting” checks to a smaller group fails to do that. People need help like never before, and we must put money in their pockets,” wrote Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).

She was joined by Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo, who also posted a tweet criticizing Biden's stimulus proposal, writing, "$1,400 ≠ $2,000."

It’s the backbone of the progressive argument, that $1,400 isn’t enough, and even if Biden delivers the full amount, it still won’t be, really.

Since the start, $2,000 and the figures that came before it have always been arbitrary. In each case, the amounts weren’t drafted to represent any sort of data-driven analysis of need. 

It’s always been an arbitrary threshold, and the argument is whether to further put the economy in peril, or help struggling families as much as possible. 

For Rep. AOC, it’s the latter. 

“Some of the same folks who said “defunding huge PD budgets & shifting $ to schools is too hard to explain” are now saying “Well $1400 is actually $2k if you recall the $600 from a diff president, carry the 1- yes I know ads showed $2k checks, but thresholds-” Just help people!” she wrote. 


 

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