GOP Senators Could Pay Political Price For Opposing Coronavirus Relief, Poll Finds

Republican senators could pay a political price for opposing a $3 trillion Democratic coronavirus relief proposal, with three-quarters of voters in Senate battleground states supporting the legislation, according to a new poll from two progressive organizations.

The survey, from Data for Progress and The Justice Collaborative Institute, found widespread support for the HEROES Act, which the Democratic-led House passed in mid-May. The legislation included a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks for most Americans, $200 billion in housing assistance and $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments.

Senate Republicans have resisted the legislation, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated the chamber will pass its own, less costly GOP-led proposal later this month. Both McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have suggested compromise is likely, with possible sticking points including an extension of expanded unemployment benefits and McConnell’s desire for a liability shield to protect companies from coronavirus-related lawsuits. 

“I can’t comfortably predict we’re going to come together and pass it unanimously like we did a few months ago — the atmosphere is becoming a bit more political than it was in March,” McConnell told reporters in Louisville earlier this month. “But I think we will do something again. I think the country needs one last boost.”

The poll, however, found the senators McConnell is counting on to win reelection and keep the GOP’s control of the Senate could lose support if that boost doesn’t go far enough in battling the economic pain wrought by the pandemic. The national unemployment rate is above 11%, and a previously passed $2 trillion relief law has played a key role in preventing further economic collapse. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to pass a GOP-only coronavirus relief proposal in late July. 

The poll found 57% of voters said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports the Democratic proposal, while just 11% said they would be less likely to vote for such a candidate. Even 52% of Republicans said they would be more likely to back a candidate who supports the stimulus proposal. About one-third of voters said it wouldn’t impact their vote. 

And the poll indicates voters might reject a plan that does not go far enough – 79% of voters, including 65% of Republicans and 83% of independents, said the HEROES Act is either the right size for a relief proposal or should be even larger. Just 21% of voters said the proposal “goes too far.” 

Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and Democrats are targeting at least seven GOP-held seats in November. Republican pickup opportunities are largely limited to bright-red Alabama. McConnell, facing a deteriorating political environment caused by Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic, is trying to steer vulnerable Republicans like Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis and Montana Sen. Steve Daines to political safety. 

Sean McElwee, a progressive strategist who helped conduct the survey, said any McConnell-led opposition to a robust stimulus proposal will only hurt his party’s incumbents, including those in states like Kansas and South Carolina, where the GOP is unexpectedly playing defense. 

“It turns out that driving the American public into a never-ending pit of economic despair would have negative consequences for the Republican Party,” McElwee said. “For all the talk of Mitch McConnell being a mastermind, he’s putting states on that map that we’re unimaginable in the wildest dreams of Democratic strategists just three months ago.”

The poll surveyed 819 likely voters across 18 states with competitive Senate races: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Arizona, Iowa, Montana, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Alabama and Kentucky. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points. 

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