Biden's $1.9T rescue signed, and now things get tougher

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., arrives for her weekly news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 11, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON – Tough as it was for Democrats, passing President Joe Biden’s sweeping $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue package into law was the easy part.

Now, they are hunkering down to push the next priorities in Biden’s agenda forward past what, so far, has been a wall of entrenched Republican opposition in the so-very-split Congress. It's likely to be a long slog.

Popular legislation to expand voting rights, raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and develop the president’s “Build Back Better” infrastructure package are all on deck this spring and into summer. But unlike the relatively quick passage of the American Rescue Plan, halfway through the president's first 100 days, sending the next measures to Biden's desk is expected to take many months. Democrats are even considering changing historic filibuster rules to overcome opponents and speed the bills along.

“It will take time to put all the pieces together,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., a member of party leadership.

Biden’s signing of the American Rescue Plan on Thursday marks a milestone for his administration and for Democrats who have command of the House, Senate and White House for the first time in a decade. From party leaders to rank-and-file lawmakers, the Democrats are buoyed by what they can accomplish when they hold together, as a united front, against the GOP opposition to Biden’s agenda. But the weeks and months ahead will prove more politically challenging.

Democrats face mounting pressure from within their centrist ranks to try harder to win support from Republicans, especially on the coming infrastructure bill — a multitrillion-dollar investment in roads, bridges, ports and broadband that could be even bigger than the just-signed coronavirus rescue package.

At the same time, the progressive flank is eager to waste no time and take more dramatic steps, including changing the Senate's 60-vote margin required by filibuster rules, if needed, to leave Biden’s opponents behind.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said all options remain on the table.