All indications say a fourth stimulus check is dead. Omicron variant notwithstanding, it was probably dead anyway, but now it truly is.
The American Rescue Plan Act was passed in March, and it mandated a one-time round of $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans. Soon after, some began calling for additional checks. A petition asking for $2,000 a month for every American is approaching three million signatures, while some members of Congress have also called for additional stimulus.
However, following the passage of the Rescue Plan, the Biden administration expressed little enthusiasm for another round of full-on stimulus checks. Even early in negotiations with Congress on the president’s proposed spending packages, it doesn’t appear the administration or Democratic leadership was calling for stimulus checks to be part of the package.
The administration did propose extending the expanded child tax credit, a part of the Rescue Plan that also entailed direct payments to many Americans, originally proposing it be extended in 2025, although the version that passed the House included only a one-year extension of that credit.
On Sunday, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) went on television and announced that he opposes the current version of the Build Back Better bill, and subsequent reporting has shown that Manchin was specifically opposed to the inclusion of the expanded child tax credit. The Huff Post reported that Manchin had told colleagues he was worried that recipients would spend the child tax credit money on drugs. Another report, by CNN, stated that Manchin had proposed universal pre-Kindergarten and Obamacare subsidies in talks with the president, which were key parts of the Build Back Better proposal, but not the child tax credit.
Manchin did vote for the American Rescue Plan but has provided no indication he supports a fourth stimulus check.
This appears to be the main reason why a fourth check is dead. Manchin has been clear that he would not vote for the child tax credit, citing the cost, the deficit, and inflation as the main reason. A round of stimulus checks would almost certainly cost more money than an extended child tax credit since it would probably involve more money going to a larger group of people. And without Manchin, the Democrats cannot pass any reconciliation bill, unless they get some Republican votes.
Could the Omicron variant lead to additional checks? It’s possible to imagine the idea gaining steam again if the latest variant led to shutdowns and other such measures. But the Biden Administration hasn’t included that in its plans for dealing with Omicron—and without the administration’s full support, such a massive legislative lift just isn’t at all possible.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.