It has now been more than four months since President Biden entered the White House. By most accounts, his first hundred days have been reasonably successful; the American Rescue Plan, his major COVID-19 relief plan, has passed into law.
The American Rescue Plan is roughly two hundred and fifty pages long and contains a wide range of measures designed to combat the pandemic and boost America’s economic recovery. However, Biden has demonstrated that this enormous spending bill – it cost roughly $1.9 trillion to taxpayers – is not the full extent of his COVID-19 relief; on the eve of his hundredth day in office, he announced to Congress that he would pursue a second pair of relief plans, the “American Jobs Plan” and the “American Families Plan,” going forward.
These plans have been discussed at great length and lauded as a remarkable expansion of America’s social safety net, but one of their most-discussed features is something that they lack. Neither plan calls for a fourth stimulus check, which roughly 80 Democratic lawmakers in the House and the Senate have called for.
Biden has so far avoided questions about a fourth stimulus check; White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki deflected questions about it and implied that Congress should take the lead on the issue, if Democratic legislators wanted to advance it.
But pro-stimulus Democrats have a large number of Americans on their side. In polls, 60% or more or Americans have indicated that they support a fourth stimulus check. A Change.org petition calling for a recurring $2000 stimulus payment has garnered 2.3 million signatures since March 2020. And there is some evidence, at least, that the money would be well-spent; an Economic Security Project report suggests that further stimulus checks could keep as many as 12 million more Americans out of dire poverty.
And, while Biden may believe that the issue of a fourth stimulus check is a distraction from the other items on his agenda, it is a distraction that has not gone away. As recently as May 17, Biden received a letter from Rep. Jimmy Gomez and six other House Democrats, calling for “automatic stabilizer” stimulus checks and underlining the measures’ support from economists.
Still, for now, it seems unlikely that a fourth stimulus check will pass. The Democrats’ razor-thin control of the Senate has allowed centrist Democrats, notably Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), considerable leeway in rejecting large spending bills.
Once the two of them are on board with any prospective legislation, however, Democrats will be faced with a larger problem still: congressional Republicans, who will almost certainly filibuster it.
Trevor Filseth is a news reporter and writer for the National Interest.