Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
Updated: Tue, 23 Feb 2021 18:07:46 GMT
The legislative fight over President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus bill begins in earnest this week on Capitol Hill, with the House expected to attempt to pass the measure by later this week in hopes of getting it to the Senate and passed into law by mid-March.
Republicans have slammed the process as the opposite of the bipartisanship that Biden promised during his 2020 campaign, as Democrats are employing a procedural device that will allow them to pass the measure with a simple majority in both chambers of Congress.
"The partisan bill Democrats are preparing is stuffed with non-COVID-related liberal goals and more band-aid policies as if the country were going to stay shut down another year," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) tweeted on Monday. "We need 2021 to be different than 2020. Congress should focus on smart policies to help that happen."
While there's no doubt that there's some risk in passing such a massive spending bill with only Democratic votes, a data point in a new Gallup national poll should give McConnell and the Republican resisters some pause about just how hard they want to fight Biden on this bill.
Here's the number: 67% of the public approves of the way Biden has handled the coronavirus pandemic, while just 31% disapprove.
What's even more remarkable than that overall finding is this: More than 1 in 3 self-identified Republicans (34%) approve of how Biden is dealing with the virus -- more than double the amount who approve of Biden's approach to foreign affairs (15%) or the economy (12%). And the 34% who approve of how Biden has dealt with the Covid-19 crisis is well in excess of the 12% who approve of how he is doing the job overall.
What that means is simple: Biden is trusted by a large -- and somewhat bipartisan -- swath of the American public on the government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic right now. Why? Well, some of it undoubtedly has to do with the contrast between Biden's science-based approach and the politicization of the virus by former President Donald Trump. And whether fair or not, Biden is likely getting some amount of credit for the rapidly declining number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus in recent weeks.
But regardless of the reason, the fact is this: The public believes that what Biden is doing to deal with the pandemic is working. So if Biden says we need a large stimulus package to ensure we get more people vaccinated, help out those who have lost business and jobs in the pandemic and do various other large and small things to combat the effects of the coronavirus, well then, at this moment he's likely to be given the benefit of the doubt by most Americans.
Which is why McConnell and his fellow Republicans are trying to focus their attacks less on the legislation itself (or even on the virus) and more on the fact that Biden is not doing things in a bipartisan manner. It's the best card for the GOP to play, but it's not exactly a strong one -- particularly after four years of Donald Trump riding roughshod over even the notion of working with his political opponents.
The key to winning in politics isn't fighting all the time. It's knowing when -- and where and on what -- to fight. And a fight over the Covid-19 stimulus package is not one Republicans can win right now.