CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS CHECKS

Third stimulus check: when can Biden sign the bill after the Senate passes it?

Democrats are racing forward to pass a new coronavirus relief package, possibly in the next four weeks. Biden could sign it as soon as it hits his desk.

Third stimulus check: when can Biden sign the bill after the Senate passes it?
MANDEL NGAN AFP

With extended unemployment benefits set to run out in mid-March, Democrats are working to get a new round of covid-19 relief spending out fast. President Biden defended a move by congressional Democrats to bypass a need for Republican votes using reconciliation, a parliamentary budget procedure whereby they only need a simple majority in the Senate to pass new spending.

Democratic lawmakers are using the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan as their framework for the latest round of coronavirus aid. This would include a third stimulus check payment of $1400 to top-up the $600 direct payments authorized in December. Biden has ten days from the time Congress sends him the final legislation to sign it into law or veto it.

Democrats are moving quickly to pass stimulus

On Friday the House approved the final budget framework in a 219-209 vote with unanimous GOP opposition. Hours earlier the Senate voted along party lines to approve the fast-track budget measure whereby they could use reconciliation. The all-night voting marathon saw Vice President Kamala Harris cast her first tiebreaking vote.

The ground is now set for lawmakers to get down to writing the language for the legislation based on Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal that they will vote on. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday that she aims to send a sweeping coronavirus relief bill to the Senate within two weeks. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has also talked about the need to act fast.

When will the Senate vote on the American Rescue Plan?

Once the Senate has the House bill there will still be challenges with one Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, stating publicly that he is against the direct payments going to upper income earners. Manchin and Susan Collins put forth a proposal during the Senate vote-a-rama to exclude "upper-income taxpayers" from eligibility for any third round of direct payments. The proposal met with near universal approval but exactly what would constitute “upper-income” was not defined.

Biden when speaking on the economy on Friday let it be known that he is open to limiting who is eligible in the next round of direct payments saying “We need to target that money so folks making $300,000 don’t get any windfall.” Biden didn’t give any specifics what that limit should be but one figure floating around is $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for couples. A group of 10 GOP senators in a counterproposal put the limits at $40,000 and $80,000 respectively.

The Republicans’ plan also sought to lower the dollar amount of the third round of payments. Their proposal calls for $1000 direct payments as opposed to $1400 payments Biden’s plan states. Biden tried to put an end to any debate speaking from the White House saying “I’m not cutting the size of the checks. They’re going to be $1,400, period.”

When could Americans see a $1400 stimulus check?

The American Rescue Plan is a sweeping proposal that includes raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. The Democrats need all 50 Senators onboard with the final package to pass the coronavirus relief bill. Joe Manchin has expressed his opposition to this part of the bill. Even Bernie Sanders gave his support to a nonbinding amendment by Republican Senator Joni Ernst not to raise the minimum wage during the pandemic. He still wants to get the measure in the final budget reconciliation bill which could be a bump in the road to its final passage.

Democrats want to get the bill out before the extended unemployment benefits expire in mid-March. Once the Senate passes the final covid-19 relief bill it will have to be sent to President Biden’s desk. He has 10 days to sign the bill into law but would most likely not waste time expressing the urgency of enacting new aid to the American public. “I believe the American people are looking right now to their government for help to do our job, to not let them down. So I’m going to act and I’m going to act fast,” Biden said.

Once Biden signs the bill the IRS will start sending out the stimulus payments. The agency now has experience sending out direct payments from the previous two rounds allowing it to send out the second round faster than the first. If everything proceeds apace in Congress avoiding getting bogged down in negotiations, on that timeline Americans could see a third stimulus check hitting their bank accounts sometime between mid-March and early April.