Will Democrats have the votes to provide a third stimulus check?
Before President Joe Biden took office, he laid out the framework for a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan that would provide $1,400 checks for most Americans.
The $1,400 payments would combine with $600 in stimulus money authorized by a bill signed into law in December 2020. The two payments would give Americans $2,000 total. This $2,000 sum was an amount former President Donald Trump insisted was necessary, but Congress refused to authorize such large payments at the time.
Lawmakers in the House of Representatives have now begun drafting legislation based on Biden's framework. The hope is their legislative proposals will be put together in a relief bill that will quickly pass the House and Senate, before making its way to the president's desk to sign. If all goes well, stimulus money could land in Americans' bank accounts by mid March or early April.
The success of this plan, however, hinges on Democrats being able to get enough votes for their legislation to pass.
Biden can't afford to lose any Democratic votes, without getting some Republican support
Democrats hold a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, and all signs point to the fact they'll have no problem getting their coronavirus stimulus bill through the House. In the Senate, however, things are a bit more complicated.
See, Democrats have exactly 50 of 100 votes in the Senate. But because of a procedural tool called the filibuster, legislation cannot advance without 60 votes. That would mean Biden would need 10 Republicans to come on board with his stimulus bill in order for it to pass through the regular legislative process.
Although the administration made overtures toward Republicans and spoke of wanting a bipartisan bill, Republicans aren't on board with the plan that's being developed due to its cost and some of the provisions it's likely to contain. As a result, it's unlikely to get any Republican votes, or very few -- and certainly not 10.
Democrats know this, and are instead planning to use a process called reconciliation that allows their bill to pass with just 51 votes. Vice President Kamala Harris will be the 51st. But they'll need unanimous agreement from lawmakers that caucus with them in order to do this.
A key senator is pressured to vote for stimulus relief
There are some conservative Democrats who have expressed reservations about various aspects of Biden's plan, and their votes will be critical to its passage.
Most notably, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said in the past, "I will only support moving in a bipartisan way." Manchin also went on to add "That means an open process. I've been very clear about that."
In a separate interview, Manchin also expressed concerns about a relief bill that's overly broad, warning that "our focus must be targeted on the COVID-19 crisis and Americans who have been most impacted by this pandemic."
This doesn't necessarily mean the Senator will vote only for a bill with Republican buy-in, as an "open process" could refer to the opportunity for Republicans to add amendments to the bill. But because of Manchin's reservations, Democrats will need to tread carefully and ensure they don't craft legislation that's too broad or partisan for the conservative Democrat to get on board with.
Manchin is, however, receiving pressure from officials in his home state of West Virginia. City leaders in Bluefield, W.VA wrote to both Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito (the Republican Senator from the state) to support the $350 billion in relief the stimulus package would provide for states. And the West Virginia Governor, Jim Justice, has also previously argued that a large-scale stimulus bill is needed.
With pressure from home and his colleagues, it's unlikely that Manchin would refuse to vote for the stimulus bill and block its passage. Still, those hoping for relief funds should watch the conservative Democrat carefully, because without his vote, Biden's plans to provide generous relief will likely be derailed.
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