- - Tuesday, February 2, 2021

The most important two actions the federal government should take this year are to expedite treatments for the coronavirus while getting direct aid to families and small businesses in response to the pandemic. There are conservative, common-sense approaches to fight the economic and health challenges faced by Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.

My former boss, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida supports one of those ideas and has, over the past few months spanning both the Trump and Biden administrations, argued for direct aid to families and small businesses.

Mr. Rubio continued his push for $2,000 in direct aid to families, because the $600 in aid to families passed late last session was not enough. Mr. Rubio wrote at Real Clear Politics that President Joe Biden should deliver on his promise for unity by “calling on the House and Senate to pass an increase in economic impact payments to Americans struggling due to the pandemic from $600 to $2,000.” 

This is a bipartisan idea that should sail through Congress if Democrats do not load up a relief package with a wish list of Democratic spending priorities.

Many conservatives observed how direct aid checks are good tax policy. Ryan Ellis wrote at the Washington Examiner that “Conservatives should be supportive of what Biden is proposing here,” because the checks are “an IRS advance on a refundable income tax credit, which is then reconciled when you go to file your taxes. Taxpayers turning to their annual 1040 filing chore this spring will be asked to square up their eligible tax credit amount with whatever they received under the CARES Act last year and the latest relief bill around Christmas. If there is any eligible credit amount left, they can claim it on their taxes when they file.”

When getting money to hurting families it makes sense to target middle-class families while recognizing that the government shutdowns, not a natural economic downturn, caused small business and households to struggle. Ellis makes the case that the Biden idea is a “tax cut of $1,400 per head” and the right way to respond to the crisis.

The economic pain felt by middle America dictates that these checks are needed soon. When you look at the issue, it makes sense that 72% of Americans support direct checks from the Biden administration when we see high unemployment numbers. 

With 900,000 Americans filing for unemployment for the first time this past December and 70 million Americans filing for unemployment during the pandemic, or 40% of the workforce, the aid is needed now and is clearly a better use of the Senate’s time than impeaching a president who is no longer in office. This should be the first thing Congress passes and sends to Mr. Biden’s desk before the end of this month.

If conservatives don’t step up and support the current idea, they run the risk of Democrats claiming the mantle of the pro-worker, pro-family party. They also risk letting likely new Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, Vermont independent, use the budget reconciliation process to pass a bill for $2,000 checks every month.

Money needs to be targeted an not a giant package doling out dollars to liberal interest groups hidden in a coronavirus ‘Stimulus’ package. The House and Senate Budget Committees will try to spend on wasteful and inefficient liberal programs, like elements of the Green New Deal, so conservatives need to take the checks off the table now to prevent them from being the leverage that purchases socialist policies.

The conservative solution is for targeted relief in the form of direct checks and a policy to help until the crisis passes. The more relief money that goes out in checks now, the less the Biden administration can use it to load up the bureaucracy and left-wing social programs that will last forever. There seems to be consensus from conservatives to the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus that the second round of checks is the appropriate response now. Also, his will help small businesses to get back on their feet and we need to focus our other relief efforts on saving small businesses.

Mr. Rubio is right say that he is “not prepared to allow that American Dream to wither away.” One way is to get targeted relief to families and small businesses in need. A clean bill to expand relief payments to $2,000 would pass quickly, so let’s see if Mr. Biden’s rhetoric on unity and bipartisanship is part of his first 100 days plan.

• Cesar Conda, formerly chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, and chief domestic policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, is a principal at Navigators Global LLC.

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