As President Joe Biden embarks on an ambitious plan to sell his massive coronavirus relief package to the public, conservatives are starting to ask: Did we botch this?
The overwhelming sentiment within the Republican Party is that voters will turn on the $1.9 trillion bill over time. But that wait-and-see approach has baffled some GOP luminaries and Trump World figures who expected Republicans to seize their first opportunity to cast newly-in-charge Democrats as out of control. Instead, they fear the party did little to dent Biden’s major victory — a victory that could embolden the administration in forthcoming legislative fights and even the lead up to the midterm elections.
“The lack of response to this bill in an organized messaging and aggressive media push back is shown by the fact that Democrats have now gone from $2 trillion to a $4 trillion infrastructure package. If Covid relief was that easy, why not just run the table?” said former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.
“It’s a fairly popular bill that polled well because it’s been sold as a Covid relief bill with direct cash payments to Americans — what’s not to like?” he added. “However, that’s not what the bill is. That’s a huge problem because 2022 has already started and you don’t see the fight here.”
Bannon isn’t alone in his lament. Elsewhere in conservative circles, a feeling of missed opportunity has taken root in the wake of the passage of the Covid-relief bill last week. Republicans were never expected to support the measure and unanimously opposed it when the time came for a vote. But in interviews with top GOP operatives, Trump confidantes, and congressional aides, there was a common refrain that the party could have done more to frame it for the public. Instead, periodic claims that the bill was bloated with progressive add-ons and bailout money for blue states were overshadowed by a more relentless focus on the culture wars du jour.