President Joe Biden came into office with the promise of a “bipartisan” $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief proposal, but getting the costly plan passed in Congress has proven to be exceptionally difficult.
Biden is now facing a series of obstacles that could conceivably doom the entire effort, according to reports.
“A couple of weeks”
The Washington Examiner explained that these potential roadblocks are separate yet interconnected, meaning that any attempt to clear one hurdle might result in more complex and unforeseen issues down the road.
For starters, Biden’s stated desire for the package to be bipartisan means that his push to woo moderate Republicans presents a risk of alienating some legislators in the progressive wing of his own party. As it stands, the Democratic Party is already experiencing a post-election divide between its moderate and far-left factions.
As Politico noted, the Biden White House has been engaged in negotiations with a bipartisan group of 16 centrist lawmakers, which seems to present his best bet for achieving the consensus necessary to pass a bill.
Even that effort has posed problems for the administration, however, according to reports that officials from both parties have balked at the proposed inclusion of various provisions, not to mention a price tag of nearly $2 million. Some on the panel are said to be insisting that more details will be needed before they are willing to go along with Biden’s plan.
Nevertheless, the negotiations are apparently still ongoing, according to CNBC. The president’s desire to see a deal reached quickly might be untenable, though, and even he admitted that it could be “a couple of weeks” before a workable agreement is reached.
Another obstacle in Biden’s way is the impending impeachment trial of his predecessor in the U.S. Senate.
That proceeding is not expected to get underway until well into next month and, depending on the number of witnesses called to testify, could span weeks or months. Once the trial commences, most of the chamber’s other business — likely including COVID-19 relief — will be placed on hold.
With a 50–50 split between the parties in the Senate, it could be difficult to advance any major piece of legislation, especially with the implementation of the filibuster rule requiring 60 votes to push through most bills to a vote.
While there has been discussion within the Democratic Party of an effort to get rid of the filibuster, a pair of senators in the party have made it clear that they will not vote to do so. Biden, who spent nearly 40 years in the Senate before serving two terms as President Barack Obama’s vice president, has largely skirted the filibuster issue.
In a recent conference call, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) stressed the perceived need for a major COVID-19 relief bill to pass in the near future, explaining: “Last year was the worst year for the U.S. economy since World War II — that alone should send a very powerful message to Senators who are getting ready to debate COVID legislation, and caution them against going small.”