After a narrow Senate approval, the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 bill returns to the House. During the weekend, the Senate passed the relief bill but attached concessions it deemed necessary. The chamber expects a procedural vote and final passage as early as Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D- NY) expressed relief at getting the job done. “We passed the most significant bill in the history of the last 10 years and every Democrat voted for it. This was a very hard thing to get done,” he said. With the Senate majority hanging on the Vice President making a tiebreaker, he cannot afford to alienate Progressives further. If Schumer loses as much as a single vote, the Dems lose the majority.
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The Senate approved the COVID-19 bill over the weekend even as All Senate Republicans voted against the measure. Similar to the House, many balked at the steep budget and the presence of many items unrelated to COVID-19. “This was not really about coronavirus in terms of the spending. This was a liberal wish list of liberal spending, just basically filled with pork,” said Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “
For example, the provision on setting the federal minimum wage at $15 per hour didn’t make the final version. A few days after the Senate parliamentarian recommended that the minimum wage provision have no direct bearing on the COVID-19 relief program. Another change involved Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). He threw another roadblock when he declined to back the Dems’ original proposal for unemployment aid. With each vote critical to the Senate’s 50-50 composition, Democrats scrambled to keep the current $300 per week jobless benefit boost in place through September 6 to make Manchin agree. This replaces the original proposal of $400 a week benefits until August. In addition, the new proposal also makes the first $10,200 assistance tax-free.
House Up for A Vote Again
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now faces the task of managing her fragile coalition. The first time the original $1.9 trillion packages passed, the vote ended in 219-212, with two Democrats voting no. Progressive Democrats are none too happy about the changes, especially with the loss of the minimum wage. She now needs to marshal forces to ensure the majority holds together to vote for the Senate version.
Over the weekend, key progressives in the House appeared poised to support the relief bill a second time. “Despite the fact that we believe any weakening of the House provisions were bad policy and bad politics, the reality is that the final amendments were relatively minor concessions,” said Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). She chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “We remain extremely disappointed that the minimum wage bill was not included. The minimum wage remains an essential policy and we must deliver on this issue,” she added.
Senator Joe Manchin
After the Senate narrowly passed the relief bill, Manchin praised the bill but reiterated his stance. He will not cooperate with Democrat calls to change Senate rules so bills can pass with a simple majority vote. “I’m not going to change my mind on the filibuster,” Manchin said. “I’m not going to go there until my Republican friends have the ability to have their say also,” he added.
Manchin did say he’s open to making procedural filibusters harder to employ. “If you want to make it a little bit more painful, make them stand there and talk, I’m willing to look at any way we can. But I am not willing to take away the involvement of the minority,” Manchin told the media.
Not a single Republican voted Yes for the COVID-19 bill, also known as the American Rescue Plan. Among the key targets for wasteful spending include $350 billion in state, local and tribal aid. GOP senators also called out $170 billion set aside for K-12 schools and higher education. “This isn’t a pandemic rescue package. It’s a parade of left-wing pet projects that they are ramming through during a pandemic,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declared last Friday. In addition, the Republicans said a stronger than expected February jobs report means that the US won’t need nearly $2 trillion more in the stimulus.
Watch the Today video reporting that over the weekend, the Senate passes the $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Bill:
Do you support the current American Rescue Plan now that it does not contain provisions for a minimum wage? Or do you still find the relief package too expensive? Let us know what you think. Share your comments below.