CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS CHECK

Third stimulus check: when will the proposal be voted on in the Senate?

The House approved President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan Saturday. Now it goes to the Senate where Democrats will try to pass it before 14 March.

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Third stimulus check: when will the proposal be voted on in the Senate?
TOM BRENNER REUTERS

In the early hours on Saturday the House approved President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion covid-19 relief package along party lines, all but two Democrats voted in favor. It will now be taken up by the Senate where it will face more opposition but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vowed to pass it as soon as possible, but first he must keep the party unified in support of the bill.

The legislation, Biden’s first major agenda item, is a sweeping relief package aimed at stabilizing the economy, ramping up vaccine distribution and would provide millions of Americans with $1,400 stimulus payments. The package comes less than three months since Congress passed a $900 billion coronavirus relief package.

What is in the bill?

The sprawling relief bill, in addition to topping up the $600 direct payments to Americans, would extend enhanced federal unemployment benefits through August, provide $350 billion in aid to state and local governments, boost funding for vaccine distribution and coronavirus testing. As well it includes other measures, such as money for schools, nutritional assistance and housing aid.

The bill also includes a $15 minimum wage hike, that on Thursday the Senate parliamentarian ruled could not be permitted in the legislation under Senate rules for reconciliation which Democrats are using to pass the bill with a simple majority. This could prove to be the part of the bill that causes the most debate among Democrats.

Will the minimum wage hike prevent the bill from passing?

Republicans are united in their opposition, but there are at least two Democrats that are opposed to it as well. Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona both oppose such an increase, with Manchin preparing to offer an amendment to reduce the wage rise to $11. The issue may be mute as the Senate parliamentarian ruled on Thursday that the measure cannot be included in the bill if Democrats want to use reconciliation to pass the legislation.

Some Democrats have proposed bypassing the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling, some even calling for her to be replaced. Manchin and Sinema have indicated that they would vote against the bill if Democrats put the measure in despite the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling. The White House, however, has indicated that Biden intends to respect the parliamentarian’s ruling. Furthermore, Democrats do not have the votes to overrule the parliamentarian or eliminate the filibuster in the Senate if they wanted to pass the bill without reconciliation.

However even if the final bill does not contain the minimum wage hike, a major priority for Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pledged to pass the revised legislation and send it to President Biden’s desk to sign. Pelosi told reporters at a news conference Friday “The sooner we pass the bill and it is signed, the sooner we can make the progress that this legislation is all about, saving the lives and the livelihood of the American people.”

When will the stimulus bill pass Congress?

Democrats are moving full steam ahead with the legislation, expecting to get the bill to Biden for his signature before 14 March. That date is when enhanced federal unemployment benefits, extended in the December covid-19 relief bill, are set to expire. How long debate will be allowed to go on in the Senate to meet the deadline is uncertain but Pelosi expressed confidence that the deadline would be met saying Friday, “I would like it well before that.