Talking Points

Did Republicans just sign their midterms death warrant?

Democrats have passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan with not a single Republican vote in the House or Senate. It seems the GOP is making the same calculation that it made in 2009 when it did nearly the same thing to President Obama's Recovery Act — cast the bill as hyper-partisan (or ignore it in favor of culture war nonsense), and hope that people forget it by the 2022 midterms.

Yet this may be a much larger political risk than it was in 2009. For one, the economy is already doing better than it was at the beginning of Obama's term. Unemployment is only moderately high and falling, whereas back then it was high and rising — and it stayed high through the 2010 midterms. This stimulus is also much larger than the Recovery Act; it is predicted to create the biggest economic boom in decades once the pandemic is over.

Thirdly, the ARP is structured to be extremely difficult to forget. Much of the Recovery Act was tax cuts that were designed not to be noticed and relatively obscure infrastructure projects, whereas the bulk of the ARP is direct cash handouts to families and individuals — above all the famous $1,400 checks and a huge boost to the Child Tax Credit that will now arrive as monthly payments. That's probably a big reason why a recent poll found 75 percent of Americans support the ARP, including a whopping 59 percent of Republicans. Government help is more popular when one can see it happening!

With any luck, the 2022 midterms will coincide with the best economy in decades and a lot of people with happy bank balances thanks to all this Democratic largesse. Republicans just might pay a steep price for voting against the wishes of even their own voting base.