After hopeful words from President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) regarding a rush for Washington to quickly put additional coronavirus stimulus funds into the hands of Americans, Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package is receiving pushback from Senate Republicans. Biden told reporters that agreement on the bill could take “a couple of weeks.”
The option remains to use budget reconciliation to pass portions of the relief plan — most likely including money to facilitate faster COVID-19 vaccine distribution and for stimulus checks. The provision to increase the minimum wage would be excluded from the bill, along with other elements not directly related to the allocation of funds.
If Congress uses the budget reconciliation process, the bill can pass with just a simple majority vote instead of the three-fifths majority needed for legislation of this size and stature. Even then, since the Senate is split 50-50 and Democrats only hold a 221 to 211 majority in the House, the bill would need almost full support from the party.
Leaders in both the House and the Senate, including House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have voiced their willingness to use the budget reconciliation process to get money into the hands of Americans who need it most, especially in light of the latest jobless claims report. The Jan. 21 report showed 900,000 new unemployment claims for the second week of January.
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