NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

Relief on the way: U.S. House sends American Rescue Plan to President Joe Biden’s desk

Joe Biden and Kamala Har­ris’ Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan is about to become law.

By a vote of two hun­dred and twen­ty to two hun­dred and eleven, the Unit­ed States House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives today vot­ed to con­cur in the Sen­ate amend­ments to H.R. 1319, vault­ing the bill out of the Unit­ed States Capi­tol and down Penn­syl­va­nia Avenue to Joe Biden’s desk in the West Wing of the White House.

The roll call from the Pacif­ic North­west was along par­ty lines, as Ore­gon’s Kurt Schrad­er decid­ed not to defect again on final pas­sage, pro­nounc­ing him­self sat­is­fied with the amend­ments made by the Unit­ed States Senate.

Vot­ing Aye: Demo­c­ra­t­ic Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Prami­la Jaya­pal, Kim Schri­er, Adam Smith, Mar­i­lyn Strick­land (WA), Suzanne Bonam­i­ci, Earl Blu­me­nauer, Peter DeFazio, and Kurt Schrad­er (OR)

Vot­ing Nay: Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Jaime Her­rera Beut­ler, Dan New­house, Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers (WA), Cliff Bentz (OR), Russ Fulcher and Mike Simp­son (ID), Matt Rosendale (MT), Don Young (AK)

Only one Demo­c­rat, Maine’s Jared Gold­en, vot­ed no. All oth­er Democ­rats vot­ed yes. All of the Repub­li­cans vot­ed no, except for one who did not vote.

“Today is an his­toric day,” said Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi. “It is a day of ful­fill­ment as the Demo­c­ra­t­ic House pass­es the Biden Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan, join­ing in Pres­i­dent Biden’s promise to the Amer­i­can peo­ple: Help Is On The Way.”

“I encour­age you to hold events lift­ing up the leg­is­la­tion to be a part of Democ­rats’ nation­al mes­sage and to com­mu­ni­cate direct­ly to our con­stituents,” Pelosi told her cau­cus in an open let­ter. “A toolk­it is being pre­pared to give guid­ance for how con­stituents can find infor­ma­tion about the ben­e­fits of the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan in their lives. You may also want to pre­pare a franked mail or emailed newslet­ter to help its ben­e­fits be under­stood and enjoyed.”

“This leg­is­la­tion would not have been pos­si­ble with­out the excel­lent work of the Chairs of our Com­mit­tees of Juris­dic­tion, the intel­lec­tu­al resource of every Demo­c­ra­t­ic Mem­ber and the tire­less efforts of our staffs, as we meet the needs of the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” Pelosi’s let­ter added.

“I want to thank Speak­er Pelosi and the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for pass­ing the bill that I will be sign­ing into law short­ly,” said Pres­i­dent Joe Biden. “This bill rep­re­sents a his­toric, his­toric vic­to­ry for the Amer­i­can peo­ple. I look for­ward to sign­ing it lat­er this week. Every­thing in the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan address a real need.” Biden empha­sized that the bill would boost vac­ci­na­tion efforts.

“Tomor­row night, I’m going, in prime­time, to address the Amer­i­can peo­ple, to talk about what we’ve been through as a nation this past year,” the Pres­i­dent added.

“But more impor­tant­ly, I’m going to talk about what comes next. I’m going to launch the next phase of the COVID response and explain what we will do as a gov­ern­ment and what we will ask of the Amer­i­can people.”

“There is light at the end of this dark tun­nel of this past year. We can­not let our guard down now, or assume that a vic­to­ry is inevitable.”

“It has been a year since our state had our first COVID cas­es,” said Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Kim Schri­er, D‑Washington, who rep­re­sents the 8th Dis­trict and is the first pedi­a­tri­cian to serve in Con­gress. “The Amer­i­can peo­ple need help. And they need­ed it a long time ago. This leg­is­la­tion is the bold action we need to get our econ­o­my reopened, chil­dren back into class­rooms, and every Amer­i­can vac­ci­nat­ed. This bill meets the moment and charts our path out of the pandemic.”

The Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan is one of the most con­se­quen­tial pieces of leg­is­la­tion ever to be approved by Con­gress. While it does not con­tain some pro­vi­sions that our team at NPI want­ed, like a min­i­mum wage increase, it is nev­er­the­less a huge win, and it’s some­thing we can build upon. It is sim­ply and beau­ti­ful­ly named. Three words that prop­er­ly evoke the pro­gres­sive val­ues that the Biden-Har­ris admin­is­tra­tion and Con­gress are now using to make deci­sions about our future. As I’ve writ­ten here before, I think George Lakoff would be proud.

While the leg­is­la­tion has a sim­ple name, the text of the bill itself is not sim­ple because it does so many good and impor­tant things. This leg­is­la­tion will deliv­er aid and assis­tance to Amer­i­can fam­i­lies in many dif­fer­ent ways.

There’s direct relief in the form of $1,400 checks to tens of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans, of course, but there’s also mon­ey to help small busi­ness­es stay open, bring kids back to school, improve Inter­net con­nec­tiv­i­ty, increase nutri­tion assis­tance ben­e­fits, and com­bat the virus through bet­ter test­ing and rapid­ly ramp­ing up vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign. The Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan is an invest­ment — a seri­ous, sore­ly need­ed invest­ment. Unlike last year’s COVID relief bills, this bill is focused and tar­get­ed towards low­er and mid­dle income Amer­i­cans and small businesses.

Arguably not since the Great Soci­ety has Con­gress passed a piece of leg­is­la­tion that does more for fam­i­lies and chil­dren than this bill. It isn’t a game chang­er, it’s a life chang­er. The pas­sage of this bill shows what pol­i­tics can and should be about: improv­ing lives. Bet­ter­ing the human con­di­tion. Bring­ing peo­ple together.

House and Sen­ate Repub­li­cans had a chance to be a part of this and they all declined — every last one of them vot­ed no. That was their choice.

Giv­en their feal­ty to Don­ald Trump and to pow­er­ful inter­ests like large cor­po­ra­tions, it’s prob­a­bly for the best that they refused to engage.

Pub­lic opin­ion research shows that plen­ty of Repub­li­can vot­ers sup­port this bill, as do many local Repub­li­can elect­ed offi­cials. To get Repub­li­can votes, Pres­i­dent Joe Biden would have had to com­pro­mise on the prin­ci­ples this bill was built on. He would have had to go more than halfway (Repub­li­can sen­a­tors like Susan Collins float­ed an alter­na­tive pro­pos­al that was about a third of the size.) The pack­age would have been a frac­tion of the size, and wast­ed yet anoth­er cri­sis. That was­n’t a choice Pres­i­dent Biden was will­ing to make. And thank good­ness for that.

What’s impor­tant is not how the bill passed or whether it was bipar­ti­san, but whether it meets the moment, and does what needs to be done.

ARP is pri­mar­i­ly an appro­pri­a­tions bill that changes pol­i­cy by mak­ing invest­ments as opposed to a pol­i­cy bill that also makes some invest­ments (like the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act). It does­n’t need Repub­li­can votes to stick, or have an impact.

The invest­ments, once made, are made, and can’t be repealed by Republicans.

The caveat that bears not­ing is that the invest­ments aren’t per­ma­nent. The nutri­tion assis­tance ben­e­fits, for exam­ple, only go through Sep­tem­ber 30th.

But they can be renewed, or extend­ed. And we can be sure that at the appro­pri­ate time, Nan­cy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will bring leg­is­la­tion to renew them, and force Repub­li­cans to once again reveal whose side they are on. Democ­rats are like­ly to con­trol Con­gress at least until Jan­u­ary of 2023.

Repub­li­cans seem to think they are des­tined for suc­cess in the midterms giv­en what usu­al­ly hap­pens to the pres­i­den­t’s par­ty in a midterm cycle.

How­ev­er, they may be in for a rude sur­prise. Every­thing I’m see­ing right now leads me to think that 2022 is going to be a most unusu­al midterm cycle that bucks his­tor­i­cal norms. I don’t have a work­ing crys­tal ball, so I can’t know the future. But I do know that the Biden-Har­ris Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan is what I’ve been yearn­ing to see Democ­rats in Con­gress pass for my whole adult life.

This is respon­si­ble gov­er­nance. This is what lift­ing peo­ple up looks like. This is what vot­ers have want­ed out of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty for a long, long, long time.

Our team looks for­ward to the bill sign­ing for the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan.

Let’s get this done and begin the implementation.

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