President Joe Biden has backed a plan to lower income ceilings for Americans to receive an immediate payment as part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package to be approved in the coming days, a Democratic source said Wednesday.
The phase-out levels for the $1,400 incentive checks are:
- $75,000 in income for single filers; the limit for receiving a payment is now $80,000
- $112,500 for heads of households; the limit is now $120,000
- $150,000 for joint submitters; now capped at $160,000
The structure would lower the direct payment ceilings approved by the House. Under the lower house bill, individuals earning up to $100,000 (and joint petitioners earning up to $200,000) would have received a certain amount.
According to a rough estimate by Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, eight million people who would have received payments under the House bill would lose them under the Senate plan. Even more people will receive smaller payments than they would have had under the House proposal, he added. Gleckman estimates the changes would save about $15 billion in nearly $2 trillion in legislation.
Another estimate said about 12 million people could lose checks as a result of the policy change.
Asked Wednesday whether Biden supports the proposal, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said “he’s comfortable with where the negotiations are.”
President Joe Biden speaks about the American Rescue Plan and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses in response to the coronavirus, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, Feb. 22, 2021.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
The changes come as moderate Senate Democrats call for limiting the scope of controls in the legislation. To pass the emergency budget alignment bill, party leaders must not lose a single vote among the 50 members of the caucus. Democrats are using the process of passing legislation by a simple majority as Republicans question the need for more spending to stimulate the economy.
Democrats limited the ability for the controls once before to appease centrist lawmakers.
Disagreements within the party could have threatened Democrats’ plans to get the bill through the Senate this weekend and into Biden’s office before the unemployment relief programs expire on March 14. The House is expected to approve the Senate version of the bill next week.
The Senate plan is in place to keep the same unemployment insurance benefit passed by the House. It would add an unemployment benefit of $400 per week through August 29.
The expected change in the Senate bill has angered some progressives in the House. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., tweeted, “Conservative Democrats have been fighting, so the Biden admin sends fewer and less generous aid checks than the Trump admin did.”
“It’s a movement that makes little to no political or economic sense, and aims at an element of relief most felt by ordinary people. A purpose of its own,” she wrote.
The Senate plans to hold its first procedural vote on Thursday to approve the emergency bill. But the chamber must clear days of hurdles before it can send the legislation back to the House for final approval.
sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., plans to force Senate clerks to read the entire bill out loud, which will add hours to the process, according to NBC News. After that, lawmakers will debate the plan for up to 8 p.m., followed by a marathon vote on amendments.
Once the chamber has voted on all the amendments (with no limit on the number proposed), it can pass the legislation.
In addition to the checks and unemployment aid, the bill passed by the House includes funds to boost Covid-19 vaccinations, an extension of the tax credit for children, new support for small businesses, money to help schools reopen and aid for state, local and tribal governments.
— Thomas Franck of CNBC contributed to this report
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