Opinion: Bipartisan support for COVID relief means Congress should keep going big

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More than two-thirds of all voters support each of the American Rescue Plan's key provisions.

Last week, President Joe Biden's ambitious American Rescue Plan passed through Congress — one of the largest legislative successes for both the American people and the Democratic Party in recent memory.

By focusing on what Democratic and Republican voters wanted rather than on the bad faith arguments of Republicans in Congress, Democrats have passed a package that serves as a model for what big-D democracy can provide for the American public. The success of the American Rescue Plan should provide a political roadmap for Democrats as they build on that success with additional public investments that will shore up our economy for the future. 

Democrats were able to form consensus over such an ambitious package by recognizing that bipartisan support from voters is more important than bipartisan support in Congress.

Polling from Invest in America and Data for Progress shows that more than two-thirds of all voters support each of the American Rescue Plan's key provisions, and in fact prefer it to the smaller alternative proposed by the GOP. The constant attacks on the $1.9 trillion plan from Republicans in D.C. didn't sway Republican voters, who support it by a 13-point margin.

The plan's aid to state and local governments, which will keep essential workers on the job and boost vaccine distribution, was targeted by Republicans from day one — but is actually supported by 68% of their own voters. Similarly, Republicans' hard stance against additional stimulus checks fails to hold water when it comes to their base: 72% of Republican voters say they support Biden's incoming $1,400 checks, which will give the American people a long-overdue boost. 

But even with this massive victory, we know that the work isn't over.

We still have 9.5 million fewer jobs than we did a year ago, and millions of women have lost their jobs or left the workforce during the pandemic. Our physical and digital infrastructure is crumbling — this month, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the U.S. a grade of C- on overall infrastructure, and found that America is investing approximately half of what is required.

The pandemic has also revealed America's deep digital divide, as millions of students, workers, and families struggled to operate in a new digital-only world without adequate access to broadband.

And the power outages in Texas just a few weeks ago were a stark reminder of how ill-prepared our grid is for future disasters. 

Congress now has the opportunity — and the responsibility — to build on the American Rescue Plan and shore up the economy for the future with additional public investments in infrastructure, clean energy, and manufacturing.

These investments won't just create millions of good-paying jobs, rebuild our country's crumbling bridges and roads, and make significant progress in addressing climate change: They will give us an opportunity to fundamentally change the trajectory of our nation's future for the better.

Some critics say we can't afford to make these big public investments, but experts say the opposite: We can't afford not to. ASCE's report warned that failing to invest the nearly $3 trillion needed to update the country's infrastructure will cost the economy $10 trillion in growth, 3 million jobs, and a $2.4 trillion decline in exports.

And in 2020 alone, the U.S. saw 22 climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each. 

The good news for Democrats? Just like with the American Rescue Plan, if lawmakers are willing to make ambitious, comprehensive public investments, voters will have their backs.

Americans across the political spectrum want Congress to continue to go big. Our survey found that a 64-point margin of Democrats, a 36-point margin of independents, and a 31-point margin of Republicans support additional public investments that will deliver the updated infrastructure and clean energy we need to fully recover from the downturn the pandemic created.

Invest in America/Data for Progress

 

Sometimes, doing what is right for the American people means taking a political risk.

This is not one of those times.

The popularity of the public investment in the American Rescue Plan should give lawmakers the confidence to make further large-scale investments in infrastructure, manufacturing, and clean energy jobs to rebuild our economy stronger than before. Now that Democrats have secured the first major victory of the Biden administration, it's time to seize on this momentum and build back better.

Sean McElwee is the co-founder and executive director of progressive polling firm and think tank Data for Progress.
Zac Petkanas is senior adviser to Invest in America and president of Petkanas Strategies LLC, a Democratic strategic consulting firm.