(Bloomberg) – The Democrats begin the final push for President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion stimulus this week.
This will be the first real test of Democrats’ full control of the government since the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, which is affecting the rest of Biden’s agenda and the pandemic-ridden economy. The House plans to vote on the Democrats’ stimulus package on Friday and initiate a vote in the Senate as early as next week.
Resolving the final hurdles, in particular the disagreement among Senate Democrats over a gradual introduction of a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour, would pave the way for Biden to deliver his first address at a joint congressional session in March setting out his next policy goals be set out, including a MultiTrillion dollar infrastructure bill.
“The Senate is well on its way to sending a robust $ 1.9 trillion package to the president’s desk before unemployment benefits expire on March 14,” said Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Senate majority, in a letter to colleagues on Friday. “We will meet this deadline.”
The public focus this week will be on the house, with a budget committee vote on Monday and a vote on the bill on Friday. The content of the bill is largely fixed – the Budgets Committee is not even allowed to make substantial changes – and there are no signs of rebellion from the few remaining Democratic deficit hawks who are jeopardizing the bill on the ground.
The real action will take place behind closed doors in the Senate, where Democratic leaders are making the changes necessary to get all 50 Senate Democrats and Independents on board.
Biden first sought GOP support for his stimulus proposal, which includes $ 1,400 checks for those earning less than $ 75,000, resources for vaccine distribution, funding to reopen schools, and $ 400 per week for additional unemployment insurance. However, Republicans said the plan was too expensive after $ 2 trillion and $ 900 billion in virus aid packages were passed in March and late December last year.
Biden called on Congress on Friday to pass his plan while touring a Pfizer Michigan facility that makes the coronavirus vaccine. He urged Republicans in Congress to listen to their voters and vote for the bill. He cited polls that a majority of Americans supported the measure.
“Critics say my plan is too big,” Biden told reporters. “Let me ask you: what would you let me cut? What would you leave me out? Shouldn’t we be investing $ 20 billion to vaccinate the nation? “
However, most Republicans are expected to be against the bill. Steve Scalise, whip of the minority in the house, calls on his GOP conference to vote against.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Scalise said it would make no sense to get the big Biden package off the ground when there are unspent funds from the latest relief bill and there is growing concern about the nation’s debt.
“The money is still in a bank account, and we’re going to be spending $ 1.9 trillion in additional spending to save failed states and raise the minimum wage? What does this have to do with Covid? It should focus on helping families and small businesses that have problems and don’t bankrupt our children, ”Scalise said.
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Democrats have said they don’t have time to negotiate with Republicans. The current federal unemployment allowance of $ 300 per week will expire on March 14, although some unemployed will continue to receive benefits through April 11. If this deadline is not met, support for more than 10 million people will be cut off.
With that in mind, the Democrats are using a quick budget process to get the bill passed without requiring at least 10 Republicans. However, this means that the bill must comply with the instructions of the recently passed budget resolution for the 2021 budget year, the total cost must not exceed $ 1.9 trillion, and all provisions must be tax-related.
The Congressional Budget Office also said Saturday the bill slightly exceeds $ 1.9 trillion, which will force House Democrats to make cuts before the bill can pass the Senate.
The main provision that may not be eligible is the $ 15 minimum wage. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate budget, argues the measure can be classified as tax, as the non-partisan CBO has found it will add $ 54 billion to deficits over a decade. Opponents say the budget impact is “just random” compared to the labor market impact. The wage setting could also violate Senate rules to increase deficits after 10 years, and therefore would require compensation for savings or income to qualify.
Senate MP Elizabeth MacDonough will hear arguments from advocates for the Democratic majority and Republican minority prior to the decision. Though a simple Senate majority may override their decision, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has said he will not vote against their recommendation and deny Democrats the 50 votes they would need with Vice President Kamala Harris tied.
Once the parliamentarian has set the parameters that could be allowed in the bill, this will be the case up to Democrats decide which provisions to include in the Senate text. Democratic Senators Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona, and Jon Tester from Montana have all expressed doubts about the minimum wage increase. Manchin has also attempted to lower the $ 75,000 threshold for expiring the $ 1,400 stimulus checks, but has been rejected by progressives and the Biden administration.
Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden has said he wants to extend the extended unemployment benefit by six months instead of the five months in the house bill, and wants the additional unemployment insurance to go from $ 400 a week to $ 600 instead USD is fixed.
Democrats plan to skip the committee’s formal work on the bill, meaning their internal talks could result in a substitute for a Senate vote. Once the Senate approves the changes, the House plans to vote on the bill again before March 14th.