WASHINGTON – After an attack on the U.S. Capitol and a historic impeachment trial, Congress is back to legislating.
This week, lawmakers’ primary focus will be President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which Democrats are eager to push through even without the help of Republicans. The bill will likely face some hurdles, and Democrats will test their slim majority in both chambers for the first time.
But Congress faces a clear deadline. In a few weeks, aid for millions of people still struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic will run out.
So where is the latest COVID-19 relief bill going? And when can you expect help?
When could the COVID-19 bill be passed?
The stimulus package is expected to pass the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, but it faces several key hurdles. Over the next week, he must clean up several key panels in the House before he can move on to plenary with a simple majority vote.
The bill is due for consideration by the House budget committee on Monday afternoon, and the House Rules Committee resumes it later in the week. Neither group is expected to substantially change the bill.
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House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Told lawmakers to expect the House to vote later in the week.
If the bill is passed in the House, it would then go to the Senate, where it would face a more complicated process. The House could amend the bill, which would send it back to the House for another vote.
Democrats aim to pass the entire package by mid-March, when a federal unemployment benefit hike will expire.
What’s in the COVID-19 relief bill?
The House Budget Committee released a 591-page bill on Friday. The bill contains provisions affecting a wide variety of government functions. Here’s what the legislation includes:
- $ 1,400 for Americans earning $ 75,000 or less, or $ 2,800 for couples earning $ 150,000 or less, plus $ 1,400 per dependent.
- Renewal of the Paycheck Protection Program for Small Business Loans.
- Improved food aid benefits for families.
- Funding for the reopening of schools.
- Relief from the restaurant.
- Financing of transit and airports.
- An extension of a $ 400 per week increase in federal unemployment benefits until the end of August.
- An expansion of the child tax credit, including an increase to $ 3,600 per child and a transfer to the monthly payment.
- Expansion of the earned income tax credit.
- Financing of vaccine distribution.
- Expansion of subsidies under the Affordable Care Act for health insurance.
- Expansion of health insurance for the unemployed thanks to the subsidies of the COBRA law on health insurance.
- An increase in the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour by 2025.
What is budget reconciliation, the process used to adopt it?
The Senate is tied 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, and Vice President Kamala Harris is available to sever ties. But Democrats lack a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, which means they would need more than 60 votes to thwart any Republican effort to block the legislation.
Instead, Democrats use a process called budget reconciliation that allows them to skip major procedural hurdles.
Reconciliation allows Democrats to pass legislation by simple majority. But the process is subject to certain rules that could make it more difficult to include certain democratic priorities, like a minimum wage increase of $ 15.
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Both parties have already used budget reconciliation. Republicans attempted to use it to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017, but it failed when three Republican Senators voted with all Democrats to reject the repeal.
The Republicans, however, later succeeded in pushing through a major reform of the tax code through reconciliation.
What are the main obstacles and disagreements?
Republican senators oppose many provisions of the law, such as billions in aid to state and local governments. In this round of negotiations, as in the last round, Republicans have derided aid as a bailout for Democrat-controlled communities mired in financial woes.
A group of Republican senators came up with a more modest proposal totaling around $ 618 billion, but Democrats continued with their $ 1.9 trillion plan over Republicans’ objections.
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Intra-party disputes have arisen among Democrats over the inclusion of a federal minimum wage increase. Moderate Democrats such as Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have spoken out against including the $ 15 minimum wage in the package.
Under a provision known as the Byrd Rule, a Senator can raise objections to “superfluous” provisions of legislation passed in conciliation, and if the objection is found to be admissible, the provision will be struck from the table. law Project. Provisions are considered “superfluous” if they do not have a substantial effect on the federal budget.
Supporters of the minimum wage increase such as Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Have argued that the wage increase could survive scrutiny under the Byrd Rule. He pointed to a recent study by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office that an increase in the federal minimum wage would increase the budget deficit by increasing the price of goods and services used by the federal government. But if the provision remains in final Senate legislation, it’s unclear whether Democrats like Sinema and Manchin would back it, leaving its future in jeopardy.