Opinion: Megan Dewhirst

Hey, Big Spender! The past week in US Politics...

This week saw President Joe Biden’s flagship COVID-19 relief bill pass through the US Congress. After much opposition from the Republican Party over the size of the bill, the $1.9 trillion relief package passed through the House of Representatives firmly along partisan lines, with the Republicans uniformly refusing to vote in its favour.

Image: The White House from Wikimedia Commons

This comes as somewhat of a shock, as polls suggest that support for the COVID-19 economic aid bill is cross-party, with 70% of total pollsters saying they were in favour, and with a surprisingly large 41% of Republican participants saying they were in favour of the bill.

The strict partisan line the Republicans have taken therefore indicates that the opposition party does not seek to work collaboratively with the President.

However, it was not just Republican opposition to the bill. The main stickler in the passing of the relief bill through the House of Representatives was moderates in the Democrat Party, most notably Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Manchin refused to pass the bill if it remained the same as the Senate-approved version, which was passed last weekend.

The pressure from moderates resulted in the package being significantly reduced, and, most disappointingly to progressives, the provision to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour was dropped.

Under the House-approved version, which will head to Biden’s desk to be signed into law, unemployment benefits will remain as they are, at $300/week, but will be extended to September.

Accordingly, the overall relief package will be priced at just short of President Trump’s $2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. This has been cited by Democrats who denounce Republicans for putting party politics before health priorities.

Kevin McCarthy, however, the Republican House Minority Leader, has repeatedly argued that Biden’s bill is a “laundry list of left-wing priorities” masquerading as an COVID-19 relief bill.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Despite the disappointment of lack of bipartisan cooperation, and major concessions, the progressives and Biden are still extremely happy with the measure.

On Wednesday, Biden took to twitter to announce: "Help is here." In his public statement, he declared that "an overwhelming percentage of Americans have made it clear they support the American Rescue Plan", and that "with the final passage in the House of Representatives, their voice has been heard."

In other news

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah Winfrey prompted the media to request comments from President Biden. His predecessor had been overtly critical of Meghan Markle, with Trump calling her “nasty” in June 2019 and tweeting in March that he would not fund their security.

Image: Office of the Governor General from Wikimedia Commons 

The media was interested to see how Biden would react to the accusations towards the monarchy. However, his press secretary Jen Psaki expertly positioned Biden firmly on the fence between his ‘allies’ over the pond and the American Duchess.

Psaki, on behalf of President Biden, outlined that Meghan Markle displayed huge courage in talking about her mental health, her struggles, and her own personal story.

There was a certain reluctance, however, to affect the ‘special relationship’ between the United States and the United Kingdom. Paski reaffirmed that the US has a "strong and abiding relationship with the British people and special partnership with the government of the United Kingdom on a range of issues. And that will continue."

Biden has been referred to as a 'Switzerland' in between the Monarchy and Harry and Meghan.

Looking forward…

This week has been dominated by the COVID-19 relief bill in US politics. However, this has also highlighted that various players in the Democrat party shall be key to the success of Biden and the party. With Joe Manchin possessing an influential position in the passing of the relief bill, his position in the House of Representatives, as a moderate, will be one to watch as the Biden presidency seeks to implement more progressive policies down the line.

Whilst the ‘special relationship’ between the UK and the US appears to be largely unaffected by the monarchical crises unfolding on British shores...