Houston Chronicle

Dems gear up to pass stimulus quickly

- By Erik Wasson and Laura Davison

Democrats begin the final push for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill this week, dropping any pretense of bipartisan­ship to quickly pass the package before an earlier round of benefits runs out.

This will be the first real test for Democrats’ full control of government since former President Donald Trump’s impeachmen­t trial, with implicatio­ns for the rest of Biden’s agenda and the pandemicba­ttered economy. The House plans to vote as soon as Friday on the Democrats’ stimulus package, setting up a Senate vote as soon as next week.

Resolving the final hurdles, especially disagreeme­nt among Senate Democrats about a provision phasing in a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage, would clear the way for Biden to give his first address to a joint session of Congress in March outlining his next policy goals, including a multitrill­ion-dollar infrastruc­ture bill.

“The Senate is on track to send a robust $1.9 trillion package to the president’s desk before the March 14 expiration of unemployme­nt insurance benefits” from the last round of stimulus, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a Friday letter to colleagues. “We will meet this deadline.”

In public, the focus will be on the House this week, with a floor vote on the bill as soon as Friday. The content of the bill is mostly locked in — the Budget Committee isn’t even allowed to make substantiv­e changes — and there’s no sign of a rebellion by the few remaining Democratic deficit hawks imperiling the bill on the floor.

The real action will be behind closed doors in the Senate, where Democratic leaders are hammering out the changes needed to get all 50 Senate Democrats and independen­ts on board.

Biden initially sought some GOP support for his stimulus proposal, which includes $1,400 checks for individual­s making less than $75,000, resources for vaccine distributi­on, funds for schools to reopen and $400 per week in supplement­al unemployme­nt insurance. But Republican­s said the plan was too expensive, coming after last year’s $2 trillion and $900 billion virus relief packages enacted in March and late December, respective­ly.

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