After the recent Memorial Day recess, many members of Congress have returned to work with a focus on helping Biden to pass his twin infrastructure and pandemic relief bills, the American Families Plan and American Jobs Plan. These two bills would spend roughly $4 trillion over the following decade fixing American infrastructure and expanding the social safety net for working families, although they have attracted considerable opposition due to their exorbitant cost. (As a comparison, when adjusted for inflation, the United States spent roughly the same amount to win the Second World War.) President Biden has indicated that he is engaged in negotiations with Senate Republicans to lower this price tag.
This discussion has centered on the infrastructure and welfare proposals contained in the two bills. However, more than eighty members of the House and Senate – all progressive Democrats – have objected to the absence of a fourth stimulus proposal. They have argued that such a payment would help many Americans pay their essential bills and stimulate the economy. A recent study quoted in a letter from Rep. Jimmy Gomez to Biden claimed that, with the passage of another stimulus check, as many as 12 million Americans could be kept out of poverty.
In short, while the political objections to a fourth check are very strong, perhaps insurmountable, the moral case for one remains relatively strong.
So far, Biden has not confronted the topic of a fourth stimulus check head-on. However, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has seemed open to the idea. Psaki said that the president was “happy to hear from a range of ideas on what would be most effective and what’s most important to the economy going forward.”
Psaki did implicitly criticize some of the president’s detractors: “He’s also proposed what he thinks is going to be the most effective for the short term, for putting people back to work, to getting through this pivotal period of time, and also making us more competitive over the long term.” In other words, given Congress’s limited resources, Psaki has indicated that Biden has prioritized other, more targeted objectives – relief towards renters, for instance, and an increase in the Child Tax Credit – over open-ended stimulus payments to all Americans, which have received criticism from some corners for their exorbitant cost and unclear economic efficiency.
However, Psaki did not rule the idea of a fourth check out altogether. Ultimately, she said that while Biden would not take the lead on the stimulus debate, that he would “see what members of Congress propose.”
Trevor Filseth is a news reporter and writer for the National Interest.