Democrats Tweak COVID-19 Aid Package deal Forward Of Senate Vote : NPR


Vice President Kamala Harris leaves the Capitol on Thursday after casting a procedural vote to open a debate on the $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus alleviation law. Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images Hide caption

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Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris leaves the Capitol on Thursday after casting a procedural vote to open a debate on the $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus alleviation law.

Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

Senate Democrats are advancing an updated version of the $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which includes several enhancements designed to please some moderates ahead of an expected final vote in the coming days.

The Senate voted between 51 and 50 on a partisan basis to push the bill on Thursday. Vice President Kamala Harris voted with all Democrats to break the bond and advance the lengthy debate and change process.

The new version of the bill includes more money for rural hospitals, more generous access to federal programs for live venue operators, tax breaks for student loan borrowers, and changes to the $ 350 billion pool of state and local funds. The changes come a day after party leaders agreed to limit income eligibility for receiving the final round of $ 1,400 stimulus checks at the request of moderate Democrats.

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., has been negotiating with Senators for the past few days to balance the changes demanded by the moderates with optimizations that will satisfy others in the party. Republicans are not expected to vote for the bill, which means Democrats will need unanimous support to pass one of the largest spending bills in history.

“We will not repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Schumer in the Senate. “We won’t be shy about a major challenge. We won’t delay when urgent action is needed.”

The latest update would remove tax-free student loan relief related to coronavirus, increase COBRA health coverage from 85% to 100% for those losing their jobs due to the pandemic, and add $ 10 billion in additional infrastructure funding to government, Provide local and tribal governments.

Another significant change sought by Democrats and many Republicans was to limit the use of the state and local aid fund to $ 350 billion. The new version of the bill provides that the funds will be used until the end of 2024 and only to respond to the public health emergency related to COVID-19 or its negative economic impact, including helping households, small businesses and nonprofits Organizations. or help for affected industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality. “

The new limits also stipulate that the fund can be used for the provision of government services “to the extent of the reduction in revenue” from the pandemic and for “necessary investments” in water, sanitation and broadband infrastructure.

Read the full invoice below:

Progressives have been disappointed with changes to the House of Representatives passed legislation that they believe will make the bill less effective in providing economic relief to those hardest hit by the pandemic. First, the Democrats had to scrap a provision to increase the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour by 2024 after the impartial Senate MP ruled that the policy violated Senate budget rules.

They were further frustrated with the decision to cap stimulus payments to lower income levels than those who passed the house. Senate leaders and the White House agreed to centrist Democrats’ demands to focus payments on low and middle income families.

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Under the Senate bill, individuals earning $ 75,000 or less and any couple earning $ 150,000 or less per year would continue to receive the full payment of $ 1,400. But payments would be cut for anyone earning $ 80,000 or more and for couples earning more than $ 160,000, a sharp drop from the house’s numbers.

Many house progressives, especially those representing cities with higher cost of living, argue that the lower thresholds particularly disadvantage single parents because they often have to earn much more to support their families.

White House press secretary Psaki told reporters that the vast majority of people who would have received payments in December would continue to receive payments under the new arrangement.

“Under the Senate version of the bill, 158.5 million households will receive direct payments,” said Psaki. “That’s 98% of the households they received in December.”

In one step, Congress could lift millions of children out of poverty

Democrats say these payments, in conjunction with other programs like rent and utility relief, expanded home vouchers, and an expanded child tax credit, should work to lift millions of people out of poverty in 2021.

The expansion of the child tax credit would give most families up to $ 300 per child per month, paid monthly from July through the end of the year.

Psaki told reporters that “66 million children will benefit from the expanded child tax credit and 17 million adults will benefit from the expanded deserved child tax credit.” Psaki said the president is keen to “consider options” to make the child tax credit permanent.

Senate Democrats are expected to fend off a series of Republican amendments through a lengthy process known as Vote-a-Rama. The package is expected to go straight and be sent back to the house which will have to vote on it again. Congressional Democrats want to send a bill to the president’s desk for him to sign before some expanded unemployment benefits expire in mid-March.