Why stop at $1,400? These Democratic senators want Biden to back recurring stimulus checks

Alex Roarty
·3 min read

A group of Democratic senators is urging President Joe Biden to support recurring direct payments to lower-income Americans, arguing that regular, additional cash assistance is necessary until the economy fully recovers from the pandemic-induced downturn.

The proposal — which likely would face an uphill climb to become law even if gained wide support within the Democratic Party — would build on the means-tested, one-time $1,400 stimulus check included in Biden’s coronavirus relief bill, which passed the House last week and is now under consideration in the Senate.

It’s an indication of how many party leaders have coalesced around the once-contentious idea of sending money directly to Americans during the ongoing pandemic. The senators, who also requested Biden support automatic unemployment insurance extensions, said they would like the president to include the ideas in a future economic recovery bill.

“This crisis is far from over, and families deserve certainty that they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads,” a group of 10 senators wrote to Biden, in a letter obtained by McClatchy. “Families should not be at the mercy of constantly-shifting legislative timelines and ad hoc solutions.”

The letter was signed by Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Alex Padilla of California, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. The support from Sanders, Warren and Wyden — three of the Senate’s leading liberals — is an indication of the proposal’s popularity with the party’s left wing.

The senators’ letter did not mention many specifics, including the size of the cash assistance checks, which income brackets the payments would be directed towards, or what economic conditions would end the automatic extensions and direct payments.

Any proposal to install recurring payments could also face long odds in the House and Senate, where some moderate Democrats might balk at additional major spending.

But the senators are pairing their request with an effort from a liberal political group, the Progressive Change Institute and Economic Security Project, which is urging other lawmakers to sign on to the proposal.

“Georgia showed the political power of checks, and data shows these checks plus unemployment benefits keep millions of families out of poverty,” said Adam Green, PCI’s co-founder. “President Biden could expect broad support throughout the Democratic Caucus if he includes recurring benefits in his Build Back Better long-term economic recovery plan.”

Democrats have rallied around the notion of sending direct payments to Americans after the Georgia Senate runoff elections in January, when both of the party’s candidates, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, pledged to deliver additional financial relief. Their surprise victories, many Democrats believe, were proof of the proposal’s popularity.

Biden himself campaigned for the additional funds, and has supported their inclusion in the COVID-19 relief bill.

“As you have said, now is the time for boldness,” the senators wrote. “As you prepare your Build Back Better plan for long-term economic recovery, know that we are ready to work with you in support of recurring direct checks and extended unemployment insurance benefits to support Americans who are still struggling during the pandemic.”

Earlier this year, House progressives also urged the president to adopt a plan that would institute recurring stimulus payments until the pandemic ended.