- President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill was passed by the House over the weekend, and will now make its way to the Senate for amendments and a floor vote.
- The Senate will strip the $15 minimum wage increase from the bill, but the rest of the relief package will stay intact with $1,400 stimulus checks, additional unemployment benefits, billions of dollars for vaccine development and distribution, and aid for state and local governments.
- If Biden signs the bill into law by next week, stimulus checks could start going out during the week of March 14th, which is when the last relief package’s unemployment benefits expire.
Shortly after the clock struck 2:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, the House passed President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. The bill contains a new round of $1,400 stimulus checks, $400 weekly unemployment benefits, and billions of dollars for vaccine development and distribution, which all 50 Senate Democrats support.
The relief package also includes a $15 federal minimum wage hike, which the Senate parliamentarian already ruled against and has drawn the ire of moderate senators like Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). Therefore, it will have to be stripped from the bill, and an updated bill will be sent back to the House once it receives a vote in the Senate. In the meantime, the clock is ticking on unemployment benefits set to expire on March 14th.
The war over the minimum wage increase came to an abrupt end last week when Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that the provision didn’t qualify for budget reconciliation, which is the procedure that will allow the Democrats to pass their bill with a simple majority. Democrats discussed a backup plan involving an amendment that would penalize large companies for refusing to raise their minimum wage to $15, but they ended up abandoned that plan over the weekend in order to focus on passing the bill as quickly as possible.
As CNN reports, the next step in the process will be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) bringing the bill to the floor, which could happen as soon as Wednesday, March 3rd. That version of the relief package will include all of the changes the Senate parliamentarian suggested, such as removing the minimum wage hike. Following that, the Senate will begin 20 hours of debate, and once those 20 hours are up, a so-called “vote-a-rama” on amendments to the legislation will take place. The expectation is that this could last into Friday morning.
With the most controversial provision of the relief package now moot, it’s possible that the Senate could send the bill back to the House this Friday, March 5th. The House voted in favor of the first bill 219-212, and the results should be similar for the amended bill, even if House Democrats are frustrated with the removal of the $15 minimum wage hike. At this rate, Congress seems to be on track to send the bill to President Biden’s desk by the end of next week, and the sooner he signs the bill into law, the sooner the $1,400 stimulus checks will start going out.