The ethical arguments for one are convincing. After $3200 in direct payments, many Americans remain worse off now than at the beginning of the pandemic, particularly those in blue-collar jobs which could not be done virtually during the lockdowns of 2020. Unemployment remains high, the economic recovery has faltered, and the March stimulus checks have largely been received and spent by now.
Millions of Americans, and more than eighty lawmakers on Capitol Hill, have observed the benefits of a fourth check, and have sent repeated letters to President Joe Biden urging him to support such a measure. However, the odds are decidedly against such a measure.
On April 28, 2021, President Biden addressed both houses of Congress, outlining the accomplishments of his first hundred days in office and providing a roadmap of his future plans. The speech touched on Biden’s two major legislative priorities in the weeks to follow – the American Jobs Plan, a $2 trillion recovery bill designed to make investments in infrastructure and improve schools, and the American Families Plan, a separate $2 trillion measure intended to assist in the recovery for American working families. The second plan, in particular, has received attention, largely due to its proposals for free community college and an increase in the Child Income Tax Credit of up to $3600 per year.
However, the speech was interesting for what it did not contain, as well as what it did. Biden’s address made no mention of a fourth stimulus check. When pressed about it later, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki pointed out that a hypothetical stimulus measure would be extremely costly, before noting, “We’ll see what members of Congress propose.”
If Psaki speaks for Biden, this is an indication that the president is not firmly committing against a stimulus check – but is kicking the issue to Congress.
Unfortunately, without the president’s support, it is unlikely that Congress will run far with the stimulus issue, either.
This might not be certain. So far, at least eighty Democrats have signed onto a proposal calling for a fourth stimulus check – with most of those in support of recurring $2000 monthly payments until the pandemic is considered to be “over.”
However, it’s worth noting that nearly all of the Democrats who have signed on to the fourth stimulus proposals have been associated with the party’s progressive wing. More moderate Democrats, notably Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), are less supportive. And Republicans, both in the House and the Senate, are overwhelmingly against it.
Even if all Democrats agreed on the measure, ten Senate Republicans would be needed as well, to overcome the threat of a filibuster. This is unlikely, particularly given Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) most recent statement on opposing Biden’s agenda.
So while the moral and economic arguments for a fourth stimulus check are clear, it’s probably not a good bet to expect one in your mailbox soon.
Trevor Filseth is a news reporter and writer for the National Interest.