For weeks, speculation about a fourth stimulus check has built, as more lawmakers on Capitol Hill declared themselves in support. By mid-June, roughly eighty legislators—all Democrats, and most associated with the party’s progressive wing—have indicated their support for such a measure. In spite of this, President Joe Biden has avoided the issue altogether; he has focused instead on his twin infrastructure and social spending bills, the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, and has left the question of a further stimulus payment open. When asked what the president intended to do, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki delegated the issue of a fourth stimulus check, saying, “We’ll see what members of Congress propose.”
Finally, observers might get a chance to see Congress do just that. The 117th Congress is in session this week, for the first time since May 20. Armed with mounting evidence that the third stimulus check was effective at addressing many problems associated with poverty in the United States, lawmakers will likely open a debate on the issue, seeking to lay out arguments in support of another stimulus payment and undercut arguments against one.
Fortunately for pro-stimulus Democrats, the evidence that the Trump and Biden stimulus checks were useful is clear-cut. A new study by the University of Michigan, for instance, found that the number of households with children with financial instability, hunger, or depression dropped by double digits between January and April, as the $600 Trump stimulus checks and $1400 Biden payments began to arrive. A different study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that 13 percent of the stimulus cash was used to pay for essential goods and services such as groceries and rent. Unsurprisingly, it found that lower-income families spent more of their checks faster, bolstering support for a fourth measure.
It is still unclear if any of this will translate into concrete action. While the moral case for a fourth stimulus check is relatively clear-cut, it is a political moonshot. Republicans have already indicated their deep suspicion of Biden’s two bills, which together will already cost around $4 trillion. A stimulus check identical to the one passed in March would add another $450 billion to this bill; an expanded check of $2000 per month plus monthly recurring payments afterwards, as many progressive Democrats have supported, would have a far higher price tag. At a time when Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are already offering concessions and trimming costs from the existing bills, it makes little political sense to add more.
Whatever Congress decides, however, the arguments will be conducted on the House and Senate floor, and the wait will finally be over.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for The National Interest.