President Joe Biden and the Senate Democrats are determined to pass the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package as quickly as possible, and they aren’t going to let a relatively minor dispute slow them down. Earlier this week, a group of moderate Democrats expressed concern about the new round of $1,400 stimulus checks being sent to Americans who might not need it. In order to ensure that the bill would have the votes it needs to pass, President Biden agreed to phase the checks out more quickly than what was proposed in the original House bill.
At first, the American Rescue Plan proposed that everyone who received a check in the first and second round would be part of the third round as well. Following the compromise, single filers earning up to $75,000 and joint filers making up to $150,000 will still receive the full amount, but checks now phase out at $80,000 for single filers and $160,000 for joint filers. Previously, the upper limits were $100,000 and $200,000, respectively.
From early on in the process, a few moderate Democrats made it clear that they were unconvinced another round of stimulus checks needed to be sent out so soon after the checks of the previous bill. If President Biden’s relief package is going to include new direct payments, they should be targeted at people who are struggling to pay their bills as the economic crisis brought about by the coronavirus pandemic continues, the lawmakers argued.
While this compromise will undoubtedly be unpopular with Americans who no longer qualify for a new stimulus check of any amount, it could have been much worse. Some of the same senators that wanted to lower the threshold for the $1,400 stimulus checks also wanted to decrease the $400 per week federal unemployment benefits of the relief plan, but Biden didn’t budge on that provision. Nevertheless, all 50 Senate Democrats are still on board.
Now that all of the internal debates have been settled, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says the Senate will move very quickly. “As early as tonight, the Senate will move to take up the American Rescue Plan, a bill designed to immediately deliver help to American families, workers, and businesses struggling under the weight of the pandemic,” Sen. Schumer (D-NY) said as the Senate began its session on Wednesday.
Once the Senate votes to consider the bill on Wednesday, the chamber will then begin a long debate process which will be followed by a series of votes on amendments that will run even longer. Senate Republicans have already said that they want to make the process as long and as painful as they possibly can, which means it will likely be Friday or Saturday until the Senate can send the finished bill back to the House for a final vote before it arrives on Biden’s desk. The good news for millions of unemployed Americans is that the bill is still on track to be signed into law before March 14th, which is when the current $300 per week unemployment insurance benefits expire.