Daily Stimulus Update: Negotiations Underway on Bipartisan Relief Bill With Smaller Checks

by Christy Bieber | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on Feb. 2, 2021

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A smaller stimulus check could be in the cards for struggling Americans.

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Even before taking office, President Joe Biden put forth a plan to provide stimulus relief to struggling Americans. Biden aimed to fulfill a campaign promise to offer $2,000 stimulus checks by including a $1,400 direct payment in his plan. This would combine with the $600 checks authorized by the relief bill former President Donald Trump signed at the end of December to give eligible individuals $2,000 total.

Biden's plan included not just stimulus checks, but also state and federal aid, boosted unemployment benefits, money for schools and vaccines, and much more. It came at a cost of $1.9 trillion. Biden urged Republicans to sign on and pass a bipartisan bill to help him fulfill his promises of unity, but the price and scope of the bill meant it was met with substantial Republican resistance.

A group of moderate Republicans, along with some of the more conservative Democrats, have been urging Biden to work with the GOP on a bipartisan plan, and a small group of Republican senators put forth a proposal this weekend that included $1,000 stimulus checks, as well as money for vaccine distribution and expanded virus testing. The checks would also go to a more targeted group of individuals, phasing out beginning at an income threshold of just $50,000 for singles and $100,000 for married joint filers, compared with $75,000 and $150,000 for couples.

Biden has indicated a willingness to negotiate with Republicans on this issue, and those talks are underway.

Biden willing to work with Republicans, but not all Democrats are happy about it

The president has repeatedly urged a bipartisan compromise, and he appears serious about negotiating with the GOP. In fact, Biden met for two hours on Monday with the Republican senators who put forth the counterproposal. The session was the first held at the White House with lawmakers from the opposing party since Biden took office. And while no specific agreement was reached, the attending senators did say both sides agreed to keep talking about a way forward.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who was one of the architects of the GOP proposal, referred to the conversation with Biden as "frank and very useful," although the White House Press Secretary had commented earlier that there was "obviously a big gap," between what the Republicans were proposing and what Biden was looking to pass.

While Biden has demonstrated a willingness to give some ground, including limiting who receives the next stimulus payment, some on the left aren't happy about the idea of scaling down COVID-19 relief. In fact, many Democrats are harkening back to the 2008 financial crisis when they feel the Obama administration didn't act swiftly and broadly enough to bring the country out of a deep recession. They fear that if Biden scales down the relief bill to gain Republican support, he'd be making a similar mistake.

The bottom line is, in order for a bipartisan bill to pass the Senate, it would need to get 60 votes, while there are just 50 Democrats in the senate now. Biden's current proposal cannot hit this threshold, but a scaled-down compromise proposal likely could garner the 10 essential votes.

While technically Democrats don't need to proceed this way and could pass a bill with just 51 votes through a process called reconciliation, Biden clearly hopes to avoid this outcome as a bipartisan plan would be more in keeping with his campaign pledges to work across the aisle.

Meanwhile, Americans will wait through more negotiations before getting money in their bank accounts, as leaders in D.C. continue their partisan wrangling about how best to proceed during this unprecedented economic and public health crisis.

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