President Joe Biden has said he plans to work with Congress to approve a coronavirus relief package, which would include sending $1,400 checks to millions of Americans, but he could see a fight on his hands as some Republicans say any further stimulus money should be spent only on the people who need it most.
Under Biden’s proposal, an outright payment of $1,400 would be part of a $1.9 trillion package of economic stimulus, including an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, $20 billion for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and an extension of federal unemployment benefits, among other measures.
Here’s a look at what we know about a possible third stimulus check.
Will there be a third check?
Both Biden and Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., the new Senate majority leader, have said they plan to broadcast a third stimulus check. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, DN.Y., also wants to see another direct payment to Americans.
While most Republicans agree that more money is needed, some say the payments shouldn’t go to every American, but only to those who need the money most.
sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said in a hearing this week that he felt Biden’s plan would be “a colossal waste and economically damaging.”
sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, told CNN’s State of the Union address earlier this month that if money needs to be sent, he’s in favor of sending it where it’s needed most.
“Now is the time to determine where the money goes,” Manchin said.
Are the votes there to pass a bill?
Can those backing the payments get enough votes to pass a bill, with the opposition sending another $1,400 by some in Congress?
While Democrats have the majority in both the House and Senate, those majorities are meager.
There are 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans in the Senate, the majority of which is determined by Vice President Kamala Harris having the casting vote. The problem Biden’s plan could run into is that most Senate bills must pass a 60-vote threshold to pass. In other words, every Democrat and at least 10 Republicans must vote for the bill to pass.
What Could Senate Democrats Do? There is a process known as budget reconciliation that allows a spending bill to be passed by a simple majority vote, but this would limit what can be in the bill.
Democrats currently have a 10 vote advantage in the House, 222 to 212 (one seat in the House is vacant). Bills in the House pass a simple majority vote – 50%, plus one.
How fast can a direct payment account pass?
A spending bill close to $2 trillion will spark debate and will likely take some time for discussion. With the Senate trying to confirm Biden’s cabinet nominations and the possibility of impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump, that timeline could stretch to weeks.
However, according to a New York Times story, Senate Democrats plan to prioritize a spending bill by making it their “first order of business.”
Schumer sent a letter to his Senate colleagues saying, “We have an opportunity to work with our House colleagues and a new administration to defeat the virus, provide the help the American people need and to reunite the country.”
Schumer said an aid bill would include the $1,400, on top of the $600 individual payments Congress approved last month, to equal a $2,000 payment to millions of Americans.
Adopting a bill with various components and costs in the trillions of dollars will take time — perhaps until late February or early March, and as Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki put it, “The package was designed with the $1.9 trillion in mind. This is a discussion, it’s a conversation, and [Biden] is no stranger to the account creation process…Rarely does it look exactly like the first package proposed.”
However, by introducing a bill that would include only the third stimulus payment, the legislation could be voted in the House next week, writes Jake Sherman of Punchbowl News.
“House Dems are considering passing legislation next week with new vaccine money/out-of-pocket payments – an opportunity to put some points on the board,” tweeted Sherman, a former Politico writer.
Cox Media Group