AOC versus Biden: When we said $2,000 checks for everyone, we didn't mean $1,400

A fun bit of Democratic infighting from last night inspired by Sleepy Joe’s new COVID relief plan. Recall that the package signed by Trump a few weeks ago provided for $600 stimulus checks, the most Republicans would agree to. Both houses of Congress passed the bill and sent it to the president’s desk for signature — whereupon he flipped over the table by suddenly demanding $2,000 checks for struggling Americans instead. A delighted Pelosi immediately brought a bill to the floor upgrading the $600 checks to $2,000, which she knew would put Mitch McConnell on the hot seat. Would Cocaine Mitch dare cross Trump by rejecting his $2,000 demand? Or, with Republicans like Josh Hawley backing Trump’s proposal, would McConnell cave and agree to $2,000 checks after all?

Senate Republicans were bailed out by the clock. If Trump didn’t sign the bill before January 3, it would have expired and desperate Americans would have been forced to wait several more weeks before a new package could be passed. In the end, to avert that outcome, Trump signed. But that meant that the issue of $2,000 checks would linger. What would the GOP do if/when President Biden turned around and made the same demand Trump had made?

Last night he made it, calling for $1,400 checks in his new COVID plan. Combined with the $600 Americans have already received, that would mean $2,000 for everyone, just like Trump had wanted. Except that suddenly $2,000 wasn’t good enough for certain members of the left. They don’t want $2,000 total for people; they want another $2,000 in addition to the $600 people have already received.

They have altered the deal. Pray they don’t alter it further.

Did I hallucinate it, or didn’t AOC explicitly say a few weeks ago that she was okay with $2,000 for everyone?

Nope, not a hallucination:

I assume her excuse for moving the goalposts will be that what was acceptable with a Republican president and a Republican Senate majority isn’t the same as what’s acceptable with a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate majority. There are a few problems with that logic, though, starting with this:

There’s also the small matter of the $2,000 figure being completely arbitrary. From what I can tell, it’s broadly popular mainly because it’s a round number and conspicuously bigger than $600. It’s not calibrated to meet some calculated need. In fact, it seems that stimulus checks issued this past spring mostly went to savings. AOC’s pushing for more just because she can. We should probably be grateful that she stopped at $2,600, as some of her progressive colleagues are ready to go completely apesh*t:

A bidding war between lefties to see who can spend more borrowed money. I wonder whose side Josh Hawley and the Republican nationalists will come down on.

It’s tempting to laugh at AOC’s demand for higher checks but remember that Pelosi’s majority in the House has diminished. At the moment, Democrats enjoy a 221-211 advantage. That means Pelosi can’t afford to lose six votes — and six is what the Squad now has, with Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and new members Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman. If Pelosi can’t satisfy them by making the checks bigger, she has a problem. On the other hand, if Schumer can’t satisfy Senate Republicans by making them smaller, he has a problem. At least if he insists on making this vote eligible for a filibuster:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who will chair the Budget Committee, has said he is working to put together a massive stimulus bill that could pass under special budget rules with a simple majority vote in the Senate, instead of the 60-vote margin normally required.

Biden, however, wants to try for a bipartisan majority on his first bill — although his team appears to have conducted little outreach to congressional Republicans on the plan. Democratic aides say that if Republicans do not appear willing to cooperate, they can shift gears quickly and move to “budget reconciliation,” the procedure that would allow them to pass legislation without GOP votes. That’s how Republicans passed their big tax-cut bill after Trump took office, and how President Barack Obama passed the Affordable Care Act.

In a 50/50 Senate, Schumer would have the votes to get this done via reconciliation — assuming all 50 Democrats hang together. Will they, though? Remember what Joe Manchin said last week about the prospect of $2,000 checks: “I don’t know where in the hell $2,000 came from… I swear to God I don’t. That’s another $400 billion dollars.” Can they get Collins or Murkowski to be the 50th vote if Manchin balks?

Maybe they can bring some centrist GOPers on board by dumping the worst part of Biden’s proposal, a $15 minimum wage. I’m sure that won’t cost them any crucial votes in the House, right?