Just Send the Checks

Throughout the Georgia Senate run-off campaign, the Democrats promised $2,000 stimulus checks. They cannot back down on that promise now.

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Historically Republican Georgia elected Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in their respective run-off elections to the United States Senate on January 5. Though a multitude of factors affected the race, the promise of $2,000 stimulus checks may have pushed Democrats over the top. The Democrats placed the thrust of their campaign on the sending of $2,000 stimulus checks, repeating the promise in speeches, debates, and campaign advertisements. Now, they must deliver.

The Senate battled over providing COVID-19 relief to the American people throughout December 2020. Though Democrats and then-President Donald Trump supported a $2,000 check, the Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, preferred no stimulus check but were willing to reach a higher number. With the debate raging on, the Democrats capitalized on the easy policy of $2,000 into the pockets of qualified Americans and used it as their closer. President Joe Biden claimed that the checks would be passed and delivered “immediately” and that the big difference between Democratic and Republican control was the delivery of these checks. And yet, this strong promise has failed to materialize nearly a month into the Biden administration.

In fact, if or when the checks do arrive, they will be in a different form than promised. The relief bill likely to be signed into law includes $1,400 stimulus checks, with the Democrats arguing that since $600 checks were sent out in a previous relief bill, $1,400 checks bring the total money received to $2,000. Though it may sound like a reasonable deliverance, it simply does not fulfill the promise the Democrats made. President Biden communicated in no uncertain terms, saying, “[Warnock and Ossoff’s] election will put an end to the block in Washington—that $2,000 stimulus check—that money would go out the door immediately, to help people who are in real trouble.” As of now, the checks will almost certainly stick at $1,400.

This inability to uphold a promise is unacceptable for the Democratic party. For the Democrats to fail on their most emphasized policy would be an embarrassing start to the party’s first period of total control in 10 years. Unfortunately, the passage of a relief bill is not as simple as the standard 50-50 vote, and Democrat Senator Joe Manchin has wavered with regards to $2,000 checks. However, the rules of the Senate demand the bill to be passed using budget reconciliation, a congressional rule that eliminates the use of the filibuster for bills regarding spending and deficits. If the stimulus bill were subject to the filibuster, compromise here would be permissible, but a simple majority is needed. The Democrats have no legislative excuse.

The American people need the $2,000 checks. A full stimulus would cover either the entire rent for a one-bedroom apartment, three months of groceries for a family of four, or the healthcare premium for a family of four. Checks for $1,400 would either barely cover those expenses or not at all. With the economy destroying small businesses and drastically increasing unemployment, the more help provided, the better.

However, the humanitarian aspect of the aid is not the sole factor. Indeed, the Democrats also need to fulfill their campaign promises. To strike out on $2,000 checks would be a political disaster, as it would immediately undermine the faith of the country in the Democrats’ ability to execute on their pledges, which in turn may reduce the number of Democratic voters who swung the 2020 election in their favor. Politics has a quick turnaround, and the 2022 midterm elections are in under two years. Democrats lost footing in the House in 2020, and further Republican gerrymandering may only serve to close the slim seat deficit. The favorable 2022 Senate map for Democrats is extremely tenuous and worsened by the historical trend of opposition success in the first midterm of a president’s service. If the Democrats fail to pass the $2,000 bill, they may be setting themselves up for electoral failure.

The Democrats made their bed over the Georgia run-off campaign, and now they must lie in it. For the Democrats to strip the American people of a considerable amount of aid would be punishing to both the people set to receive their aid as well as the Democratic electoral chances. The passage of the bill is not simple, but the Democrats are led by career politicians who have long been trained to secure core tenets of legislation. The choice is simple: just send the checks.