Early Agenda for President Biden
Following his inauguration on January 20th, President Biden has signed several dozen executive orders to bolster the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic response and accelerate economic recovery. Many of these actions are supported by broad stakeholder groups that share the urgency of confronting and ending the spread of COVID-19 and reopening the economy as soon as possible.
As part of the Biden Administration COVID-19 response, the President has proposed the ‘America Rescue Plan,’ a $1.9 trillion legislative package with several elements including:
Funding for vaccine development and administration
- $100 billion to increase testing, PPE manufacturing, and state partnerships to expand vaccine administration
State and local government funding
- $350+ billion
Expanded federal unemployment insurance ‘boost’
- Additional $400/week through Sept 2021
Education funding (K-12 and higher education)
- $170 billion
Additional stimulus payments
- $1,400 per individual
Extend and expand Families First Coronavirus Response Act policies related to emergency family and worker leave
Rent and utility assistance for families
- $30 billion
Child Care Stabilization Fund
- $40 billion to help providers remain open, including additional emergency funding
One of President Biden’s Inaugural speech’s main themes was unity, and a bipartisan vote on another stimulus package would be a key signal of that goal. Unfortunately, partisan divisions have already begun to form to the President’s Rescue Plan’s overall size, especially considering the $900 billion stimulus package passed at the end of December 2020. There are bipartisan elements in the plan with vaccine administration, education funding, and additional stimulus payments.
While the House is expected to consider and approve the Rescue Plan, the Senate will struggle to quickly find bipartisan balance. Instead, the Senate will continue its process of confirming Biden nominees before turning to former President Trump’s impeachment trial in early February. President Biden’s time in Washington, DC as a longtime Senator should be an asset in navigating a 50-50 Senate and working with some of his former Republican colleagues to find additional votes for vital legislative priorities.
If discussions with Republicans do not produce favorable results, Senate Democrats have the option of using a procedural tactic called ‘budget reconciliation.’ It is limited in scope and takes time to pull language together, but it does allow for a simple majority vote on legislation dealing with direct spending and revenues (taxes). It is important to point out that Biden’s team has not proposed any tax increases connected with their Rescue Plan, but that could change later in the year as Democrats plan to pursue longer-term infrastructure investments.