Will Republicans Pay a Price for Opposing the Stimulus?

It’s complicated. But so far, their messaging has been scattershot.

By Lisa Lerer

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There are plenty of numbers in the $1.9 trillion relief plan signed into law by President Biden this week. $1,400 for stimulus checks. $130 billion for schools. $350 billion for state and local governments.

But the most politically significant number might just be zero.

Yes, zero. That’s the number of congressional Republicans who supported the legislation.

Looking at the lack of G.O.P. support, you might assume the bill was unpopular, at least with Republican voters. You’d be wrong. Americans overwhelmingly support the package, including a significant portion of the Republican base. According to some analysts, the bill is the most popular piece of major legislation in over a decade.

So Republicans will definitely pay a political price for opposing a measure that the country, including a large portion of their base, seems to want, right?

Well, it’s complicated.

We are now in the post-passage phase of the American Rescue Plan, a battle likely to last through the midterm elections next year.

During the weeks of negotiations over the legislation, Republicans were unable to coalesce around a comprehensive argument against the bill. Instead, they offered a scattershot list of complaints. After the legislation passed, Senator Mitch McConnell’s main argument seemed to be that the economic recovery would have happened anyhow.

“We’re about to have a boom,” said Mr. McConnell, the minority leader. “And if we do have a boom, it will have absolutely nothing to do with this $1.9 trillion.”

Others seemed far more focused on Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head, culture war bait that fires up their conservative base. Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, even took the issue to the House floor. “First they outlaw Dr. Seuss, and now they want to tell us what to say,” he said during a debate over a Democratic voting rights bill. (It was the company overseeing the author’s estate, not any Democrats, that recently chose to stop publishing several of his works. And Republicans’ focus on Dr. Seuss did deliver some economic benefit: More than 1.2 million copies of stories by the children’s book author sold in the first week of March — more than quadruple from the week before.)

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