The United States Congress is currently debating what will comprise the next stimulus package for the American public. At 5:30 AM, the Senate approved a resolution that will form the framework for the stimulus package as part of the budget reconciliation process. The vote was 51-50 along party lines, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.
Over the past week, both Democrat and Republican lawmakers have presented their own proposed stimulus packages and have met with President Biden to negotiate. The vote early Friday morning allows President Biden’s stimulus proposal to move forward as part of the budget reconciliation process without Republican support.
President Biden’s plan includes another round of direct stimulus payments to the American public, but who should get these checks and how much the checks are for have been a key debate point. President Biden’s plan currently includes giving $1,400 payments to individuals earning $50,000 or less and $2,800 to married couples earning $100,000 or less. This is a concession to more moderate Democrats who have argued that there should be more means testing as to who should receive the third round of stimulus checks. President Biden’s original proposal included payments of $1,400 to individuals earning up to $75,000 and married couples earning up to $150,000.
Under the Democratic proposal, parents of children would receive an additional $1,400 per child, and Democrats have separately advocated for a child tax benefit that would provide $3,600 per children under 6 and $3,000 per child aged 6 to 17 over the course of a year. Overall the Democratic proposal will cost around $1.9 trillion. But there is still a long road of negotiations until a final stimulus is passed; consequently, this number is subject to change.
Republicans this week also released a $600 billion counter-proposal and met with President Biden to discuss the details. The Republican proposal included stimulus checks of only $1,000 rather than $1,400 and included a guarantee that the federal minimum wage would not be raised during the pandemic. Republican lawmakers have expressed concerns for the amount of money needed to pass President Biden’s stimulus package considering the amount of money that has already been spent to combat COVID-19 (about $4 trillion dollars).
Considering the Democrats passed the procedural hurdle of the vote today, they can now move forward under budget reconciliation without needing any Republican support. The vote did include some Republican amendments to the Democratic proposal, including that there would be no raising of the federal minimum wage to $15 during the pandemic. Nevertheless, it appears that amid the calls for unity by President Biden, the Democrats are moving forward along party lines. To be able to proceed in this manner, the Democrats will need ensure that they have the support of more moderate Democrats such as Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrstin Sinema of Arizona.
It is unknown when, if any, stimulus checks will be mailed to public. The next step is for the House to take up the Senate resolution, and based on their majority, the Democrats in the House will not require any Republican support to approve it.