by Christy Bieber | Feb. 3, 2021
COVID-19 relief could be on the way to Americans very soon.
Democrats are not waiting for Republicans to act on coronavirus relief.
Although President Joe Biden met with the GOP on Monday to discuss a way forward on a bipartisan plan, the administration has made clear they aren't willing to dramatically scale down the $1.9 trillion relief plan the new president proposed. They've also indicated the $619 billion counterproposal suggested by a group of Republican senators is insufficient.
Lawmakers negotiated for months to pass the second stimulus check, with the CARES Act passing in March and a follow-up relief bill not signed into law until the end of December. However, the government was divided at the time, with the Republicans in control of the presidency and Senate and the Democrats in control of the House.
Now, Democrats have control of both chambers of Congress and the White House. And they are moving full steam ahead to pass the relief they believe Americans need, even if they must do so on a partisan basis.
Democrats do not need any support from Republicans to pass a coronavirus bill because they have 50 votes in the Senate, plus the vice president who can act as a tiebreaker. Normally, 51 votes isn't enough to pass legislation because senators can filibuster it, and a filibuster would need 60 votes to overcome. But they can attach legislation to a budget through a process called "reconciliation," which can be fast-tracked with just a bare majority.
This is the plan that Democrats have now made clear they are moving forward with. Reports indicate that House and Senate committees are currently working to draft the text of a relief bill. And since there are strict limits on what types of provisions can pass this way, as they must be budget related, they are working with the parliamentarian of the Senate, Elizabeth MacDonough, to make sure the proposals they're including are allowed to pass through reconciliation.
Their goal is to incorporate as much of Biden's $1.9 trillion relief proposal as possible, although some provisions -- such as an increase in the federal minimum wage -- may need to be left out if the parliamentarian determines they do not have a significant impact on federal spending. And they want to have the process done quickly, with legislation passed no later than March 14.
This is likely to come as a disappointment to moderate Republicans and perhaps even to some centrist Democrats who were hoping lawmakers could find compromise on a bipartisan plan. Still, some on the left are concerned that if they don't act swiftly because they are waiting on the GOP to reach a deal, they'll lose the opportunity to deliver for the American people.
Many are also arguing that since the Republicans used reconciliation to pass their tax legislation in an attempt to repeal Obamacare, the Biden administration is justified in using the same process on its priorities. And Democrats have suggested that those on the right who want to pass stimulus relief would be welcome to vote yes on the bill passed through reconciliation (although that is very unlikely to happen).
Americans may not care much about the procedural wrangling, though. The bottom line is many will just be happy to see a $1,400 check deposited into their bank account some time in mid-March if the Democrats can make that happen.
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