Speed Reads

congress tackles covid

Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law. Republicans are divided on what to do about it.

President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law on Thursday, clearing the way for the $1.9 trillion relief package to take effect immediately, sending direct payments out as soon as this weekend and allocating billions more to rental and housing assistance, schools, farmers, and more.

The bill cleared Congress along party lines, with no Republican senators voting in favor of its passage. But among Americans, the package is widely popular — a CBS News poll found three in four Americans approve of Congress passing the ARP, including nearly half of Republicans. That doesn't mean Republican lawmakers will be changing their tune, however.

USA Today reports Republicans plan to make the COVID-19 relief bill "the cornerstone of campaigns to expand their House and Senate majorities." Many plan to argue to voters that the bill has authorized excessive spending and government bureaucracy. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) says "this bill does far more harm than good, and the damage it does will only make our recovery efforts more difficult." Republicans reportedly plan to echo campaign messages from 2009, when they argued against the Obama administration's post-recession stimulus efforts and successfully nabbed control of Congress soon afterward.

However, perhaps because of the bipartisan support, some Republicans are laying low on opposition messaging, lest they appear to be against cutting U.S. poverty by half and on the other side of a bill that even many GOP voters are behind. As conservative analyst Bill Kristol put it, coming out against the bill could look like "doubling down on Marie Antoinette-ism."

As Republicans scramble to find unity within their party in the post-Trump era, this major legislation from Biden could prove to be one of the biggest tests yet for the party's splintered platform.