USA TODAY US Edition
Biden’s proposal faces tough time in Senate
h Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan is likely to pass the House, but the divided Senate is likely to force a major reshaping of the package. The debate starts in earnest next week.
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including $1,400 personal checks, is likely to get closer to becoming law Friday – but it’s about to get a rude welcome in the divided Senate, where lawmakers are sparring over major aspects of the legislation.
The Democrat-controlled House is poised to pass the American Rescue Plan Friday on a largely party-line vote. That might be the easy part.
In a 50-50 Senate, questions over the scope and size of a bill that would provide billions to cash-strapped local and state governments, help schools reopen and more than double the federal hourly minimum age to $15 could force a major reshaping of the legislation, or put its passage in jeopardy.
That debate will start in earnest next week, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., implored his colleagues to move “boldly and decisively” against the pandemic by passing the president’s initiative even as the rate of coronavirus deaths and infections is declining.
“We cannot slow down before the race is won,” he said Thursday.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of the senators behind a $618 billion counterproposal, said she doesn’t expect a single Republican to support the larger package, “even if we’re able to make some beneficial changes.”
“The administration has not indicated a willingness to come down from its $1.9 trillion figure, and that’s a major obstacle,” she said Tuesday.
Two Democratic senators – Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – said they won’t support raising the minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $15 by 2025.
Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough is reviewing the wage hike proposal to determine whether it qualifies as a budget-related issue and can remain in a bill that cannot be filibustered under Senate rules. If MacDonough allows the hike to stay in the bill, the legislation could pass with the approval of a simple majority: 50 senators – and a tiebreaking vote cast by Vice President Kamala Harris.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said the proposal wouldn’t stand a chance of passing as a stand-alone bill because it couldn’t muster the 10 GOP votes needed to defeat a filibuster.
Biden’s legislation would send another round of checks to most Americans – this time for $1,400 (Republicans countered with $1,000). It would extend a federal bonus to unemployment benefits through August and bump up the amount to $400 per week (Republicans want $300 a week through June). And it would send $350 billion to state and local governments (Republicans oppose any such “bailout”).
Republicans don’t agree with the amount of aid the Biden plan would provide to reopen schools and help renters and landlords. Both sides agree on the amounts that should be set aside for small-business assistance ($50 billion) and for vaccine development, distribution and related needs ($160 billion)