by Christy Bieber | Jan. 26, 2021
Will President Biden's willingness to limit who gets the third stimulus check help ensure a bipartisan coronavirus stimulus bill?
The Biden administration is moving full steam ahead with its plans to quickly pass more coronavirus relief, including a third stimulus check.
As President Joe Biden pushes Congress to act, the new president has also shown a willingness to respond to some Republican concerns in hopes of putting together a bipartisan plan. In particular, he's indicated he might be willing to set stricter income limits for who qualifies for the next coronavirus stimulus payment.
While it's not clear what, if any, other major policy priorities the Biden administration will give ground on to gain support from the right side of the aisle, efforts to engage with key GOP senators may increase the chances of timely legislation passing that puts more money into Americans' bank accounts.
With the Democrats holding 50 of 100 seats in the Senate, they need 10 Republican votes to break a filibuster that could derail stimulus legislation from passing. Without bipartisan support for a bill, Democrats would have no choice but to try to provide COVID-19 relief through a process called reconciliation.
While reconciliation enables a COVID relief bill to pass with a simple majority of 51 votes (the 51st of which could be provided by the Vice President), there are strict rules for what can be included in bills passed this way. Democrats might have to scale down their efforts at restoring the economy if they must resort to reconciliation.
To avoid this outcome, and ensure a bipartisan policy victory after running as the unity candidate, Biden has repeatedly made clear he'd prefer to get Republicans on board with a COVID relief bill. However, he will need centrist lawmakers such as Susan Collins of Maine to sign on.
Unfortunately, some of the key lawmakers that could make or break his bill -- including Collins -- have recently expressed concern about the $1,400 stimulus checks Biden proposed. Specifically, moderates feel the payments should be more targeted, with Collins calling out the fact that families with incomes of $300,000 or more could potentially get a COVID-19 payment.
On Monday, Biden showed a willingness to modify his plans to address this concern. While signing an executive order on Monday, Biden told reporters, "There is legitimate reason for people to say, 'Do you have the lines drawn the exact right way? Should it go to anybody making over X number of dollars?' I'm open to negotiate those things."
While it's a positive sign that the new president is trying to find common ground and make necessary adjustments to get votes from the other side, it doesn't necessarily mean a bipartisan bill is in the cards. Biden also made clear that while he's willing to make modifications to certain aspects of his proposal, he'd rather move legislation quickly than haggle over every detail because "time is of the essence."
And the stimulus payments are just one point of concern for the GOP, with senators on the right also lamenting the total cost of the $1.9 trillion plan as well as questioning whether a third check will even have the impact of stimulating the economy.
The president's willingness to set tighter income limits for the third stimulus payment may, however, be necessary even to pass a bill through reconciliation -- regardless of whether Republicans sign on or not. He cannot afford to lose Democratic votes to get his 51 vote majority. And moderates on the left have also called for tighter restrictions on who will receive stimulus funds.
In the coming days, it will become clearer whether a bipartisan deal is possible or whether the new administration will be relegated to aiming for legislation passed through reconciliation. Americans hoping for more money in their bank accounts may not care much about how the bill passes. But, it could actually matter a great deal -- both in terms of exactly what help comes now as well as in the prospects of future stimulus relief if the pandemic continues to drag on for months on end.
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