Americans want Covid-19 relief done fast — even if it takes budget reconciliation 
February 1, 2021
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Americans want Covid-19 relief fast — and they’re supportive of passing it via budget reconciliation if that’s what it takes.

According to a new poll from Vox and Data for Progress, a majority of likely voters — 64 percent — would back more coronavirus relief, even if it means approving it via budget reconciliation, rather than the standard process for advancing most bills. Typically, most bills need 60 votes in the Senate in order to pass, but a budget resolution would only need 51 — and Democrats would be able to include several Covid-19 priorities in such a measure. (In the poll, we didn’t use the specific term “budget reconciliation,” but asked people if they’d support a bill passing with 51 votes as a budget measure, versus the standard 60 votes that are usually needed.)

Support for taking this route appears largely driven by people’s interest in seeing more Covid-19 relief sooner rather than later: Sixty-three percent of people would like to see this coronavirus aid pass as soon as possible, including 72 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of independents, and 56 percent of Republicans. A previous DFP poll also found that 55 percent of people would favor a change in Senate rules if it meant coronavirus relief could pass more quickly.

Most relief provisions garner overwhelming backing in the poll as well, even if they would be passed via nonstandard procedure that requires just 51 votes. Seventy-nine percent of people would support approving $1,400 stimulus checks and 77 percent feel the same about funding to help schools reopen. Other efforts including an eviction moratorium, as well as increased funding for vaccines and testing, also had a majority of people’s support.

Bipartisanship is historically quite popular as well, so there’s a tension between the support to get something done more quickly and the support for taking a bipartisan approach. According to a recent Monmouth poll, 71 percent of people want Republicans to work with Biden, rather than focusing on keeping him in check.

In order to meet this desire for Congress to move faster on Covid-19 relief, Democrats might well have to go it alone. A group of 10 Senate Republicans recently unveiled their counterproposal to Biden’s plan and it offers far less in funding than the White House’s would, signaling a rocky path ahead for any bipartisan negotiations. Even if the two sides could ultimately agree on a top-line dollar figure, that process would likely delay the package’s passage. Democrats could attempt to move ahead on the legislation as soon as this week, depending on how talks go between Biden and key Republicans, and whether they can get all their caucus on board with a bigger bill.

“The work must move forward, preferably with our Republican colleagues, but without them if we must,” Schumer has said. Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday initiated the process for considering a budget resolution.

This survey included 1,164 likely voters, and was conducted from January 22 to January 25. It has a 2.9 percentage point margin of error.

Covid-19 relief is most people’s top legislative priority

Addressing the public health crisis is a chief concern for many people relative to other legislative issues.

When asked to pick top legislative priorities for Congress, Covid-19 relief was cited as a key focus by a plurality of people (49 percent), followed by reducing prescription drug prices and making health care more affordable via the creation of a public option, at 40 percent and 34 percent respectively.

Ethan Winter / Data for Progress

The current Biden coronavirus relief plan allocates funding to scale up vaccine distribution and coronavirus testing, in addition to providing another round of direct payments and an extension of enhanced unemployment insurance. Spending on vaccines and testing is the main area where Biden’s and Republicans’ bills align even as obtaining more coronavirus relief remains key for many people. Republicans’ offer also includes direct payments and an expansion to unemployment insurance, though their provisions are more limited than Biden’s.

Since Democrats have both the House and Senate majorities this time around, they now have an opportunity to advance a more ambitious coronavirus relief bill, as well as other efforts to promote Medicare negotiations to reduce prescription drug prices and bills to expand health care access. Whether they take it likely depends, at least in part, on how sustained the support is for using procedures like budget reconciliation, and ultimately, eliminating the filibuster.

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