Top business leaders beg Republicans in Congress to back relief

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Congressional Republicans continue to fight against the COVID-19 relief plan their own voters want.

Several prominent Republicans across the country have endorsed President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. But not a single congressional Republican has yet to back the wildly popular relief legislation.

On Wednesday, more than 150 CEOs sent a letter to House and Senate leaders urging "immediate and large-scale federal legislation to address the health and economic crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic." They back Biden's plan, saying it provides the "framework for coordinated public-private efforts to overcome COVID-19 and to move forward with a new era of inclusive growth."

Among the signers were several prominent Donald Trump allies, including Blackstone's Steve Schwarzman, the LeFrak Organization's Richard LeFrak, and Vornado Realty Trust's Steven Roth.

The plan, which is currently being considered by Congress, would provide $350 billion in emergency aid to states, localities, and territories, give $1,400 relief checks to most Americans, help ramp up the effort to vaccinate hundreds of millions of Americans, and expand unemployment benefits.

Polling shows that the legislation is hugely popular — even among Republicans. A Navigator Research poll released last Thursday showed 73% of Americans favor the $1.9 trillion plan — including 53% of GOP voters.

Outside of Washington, D.C., some Republican politicians have backed the proposal.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice embraced the idea on Feb. 1, telling CNN: "What we need to do is we need to understand that trying to be, per se, fiscally responsible at this point in time, with what we've got going on in this country ... if we actually throw away some money right now, so what?"

Hundreds of mayors, many of them Republicans, signed a Jan. 29 letter asking for "immediate action" on Biden's plan, calling it "a crucial step to making meaningful progress in one of the most challenging moments in our country’s history."

One of the signers, Republican Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami, co-authored a Feb. 3 op-ed, noting: "President Joe Biden has laid forth his comprehensive American Rescue Plan and it's already received bipartisan support. The plan is bold and ambitious but even then, there's nothing in the plan that's extraneous or not absolutely necessary at this moment."

Other GOP-leaning business interests have also embraced the plan. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded its "focus on vaccinations and on economic sectors and families that continue to suffer as the pandemic rages on."

A CNBC|SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey released this month found 63% of small business owners support the $1.9 trillion bill, including 46% of those who identified as Republicans.

But the Republican Party's apparatus has mobilized against the legislation and congressional Republicans have thus far been unified against it.

Not a single House or Senate Republican joined Democrats in Congress in early February in favor of the budget resolution that advanced Biden's plan.

House GOP leaders are reportedly whipping their caucus against the plan, working to ensure that no Republican members vote for it when it comes up on Friday.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told reporters on Tuesday that she does not expect a single Senate Republican to back the legislation.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.