There is little question that many American families could benefit from a fourth stimulus payment. Repeated surveys have indicated a broad measure of support for another payment, and some economic metrics suggest that it could save millions from dire poverty. Consequently, more than eighty Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill have advocated in favor of some form of fourth stimulus check. Republicans, however, have opposed it on two grounds: its cost is likely to be prohibitive, and it is unclear if it is needed, considering the COVID-19 pandemic is receding and the economy seems to be adequately recovering on its own.
So far, Biden has remained silent on the issue of a fourth stimulus payment. It is significant that he has not rejected the measure outright; in a press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about Biden’s view of a fourth stimulus check, and responded, “The president is certainly open to a range of ideas” – suggesting that legislators were welcome to pitch ideas in further letters.
It is clear that Biden’s lack of support could kill the measure. It is less clear, however, if his support could make it. Even if Biden were able to wrangle the support of all fifty Senate Democrats – by no means guaranteed, given Senator Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) noted reluctance to support large-scale spending programs and emphasis on bipartisanship – he would need ten Republicans to cross the aisle and join him to support such a measure, likely an impossibility in the deeply divided Senate.
With the threat of a filibuster hanging over the Senate, and with the process of “reconciliation,” a filibuster-proof maneuver used to pass the American Rescue Plan Act, effectively out of reach, the Biden administration and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will be forced to compromise with Senate Republicans on his existing $4 trillion budget proposals, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. It is very unlikely that a fourth stimulus check will be added to these during negotiations.
Indeed, although Biden has not publicly made a statement on stimulus checks, in the same press briefing, Psaki also argued that “[Biden]’s proposed what he thinks is going to be the most effective for the short term.”
Though the meaning of this can be debated, it seems to be an implicit rebuke of the fourth-stimulus movement, suggesting instead that Biden’s more targeted measures – including a substantial increase to the Child Tax Credit, ongoing federal unemployment benefits, aid to homeowners behind on mortgage payments, and so on.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.