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Opinion Thanks to the GOP, Biden doesn’t need to sign the stimulus checks

President Biden visits W.S. Jenks & Son hardware store, a small D.C. business that received a Paycheck Protection Program loan, on Tuesday. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to a question at Tuesday’s briefing as to why President Biden would not be affixing his signature to the $1,400 stimulus checks. (The degree to which his disgraced predecessor convinced national media that his conduct was acceptable, let alone normal, never fails to surprise.) “He didn’t think that was a priority or a necessary step,” Psaki said. “His focus was on getting them out as quickly as possible.” She might have answered: Because he is not a raging narcissist.

She also might have pointed out that the country is very aware of whom they should thank for the check plus other benefits, including larger subsidies for insurance costs under the Affordable Care Act, an expansion of child tax credits, more food and rental assistance, extended paid sick leave, expanded broadband (popular in rural areas), aid for small businesses, and more funds for coronavirus testing and vaccinations.

A Pew Research poll released Tuesday shows that “a sizable majority of U.S. adults (70%) say they favor the [coronavirus relief package]. Only about three-in-ten (28%) oppose the bill, which provides economic aid to businesses, individuals and state and local governments.” While a stunning 94 percent of Democrats support it, so do 41 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Only a third of Americans agree with Republicans’ argument that the bill is too big. As for bipartisanship, the public has decided who was responsible for the party-line votes. Pew reports: “42% say GOP leaders made a good faith effort to work with the White House on the pandemic relief bill, with a 55% majority saying they did not work in good faith.”

Even more striking is that the GOP’s farcical claim to represent the interests of working-class voters is belied by the support the package gets from lower-income Republicans. As Pew has found: “A 63% majority of lower-income Republicans and Republican leaners (who make up 25% of all Republicans and Republican leaners) say they favor the proposed economic package.” Maybe opposing a poverty-slashing, overwhelmingly popular measure their own voters like was not the sharpest political move.

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No wonder Republicans so often either want to change the topic (Dr. Seuss? Children at the border?) or insist that the administration’s achievement is no big deal. As NBC News dryly reported Tuesday, “Privately, some Republican strategists downplay how decisive the relief bill will be in the 2022 election. Others lament that their party’s messaging has been incoherent.”

By contrast, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) did not try to contain his glee in a Dear Colleague letter Tuesday. “Over the next few weeks and months, we must take every opportunity we get to explain exactly how the American Rescue Plan will work for the American people,” he wrote. “This bill will give President Biden and his Administration an injection of public health resources to crush the virus and vaccinate every American, putting an end to the COVID-19 pandemic that has wreaked havoc in our communities.”

Schumer urged his members to “take time championing the many people-focused provisions that we secured in this bill, including $1,400 stimulus checks for 85% of households, expanded unemployment benefits, and especially the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which will soon provide up to $3,000 per child under 17 for an overwhelming majority of families in this country.” He also stressed that Democrats should not be “shy in telling the American people how this historic legislation directly helps them.”

Biden really does not need to sign the checks. With Republicans issuing unanimous disapproval in both the House and Senate, there will be little confusion about who gets the credit. The question now is whether Republicans will double down on their self-destructive contrarianism when it comes to infrastructure.

Nearly 6 in 10 Americans who are working outside their homes are concerned that they could be exposed to the virus at work and infect their families. (Video: Joy Yi/The Washington Post)

Read more:

Paul Waldman: Hidden provisions in Biden’s rescue bill make this a bigger deal than you thought

Marc Thiessen: Manchin promised to back his ‘Republican friends.’ Instead, he betrayed them.

Jennifer Rubin: Biden grasped what the media did not

Megan McArdle: Stimulus checks are the most indefensible part of the covid relief bill

Leana S. Wen: The CDC is missing a critical opportunity to get Americans vaccinated