House Budget Committee votes to advance the third COVID stimulus package, setting up House vote

The House Budget Committee voted on Monday to advance the third COVID stimulus package, setting the bill up for a House vote by early next week.

The $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed through the committee in a 19-16 vote on Monday, and will move to a House vote later this week or early next week, according to a letter sent to colleagues by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. In the letter, Schumer pledged to get the stimulus bill “to the President’s desk” before March 14, when unemployment insurance benefits expire for over 10 million jobless Americans. President Biden has expressed his desire to get the stimulus package passed to avoid any lapse in benefits and stressed the importance of passing the bill at a town hall in Milwaukee last Tuesday.

Biden had initially sought Republican support for the package, but was met with some resistance based on the hefty price tag. Steve Scalise (R-La) told ABC’s This Week in an interview last week that House Republicans oppose spending $1.9 trillion in a new economic package when there are still unspent funds left over from the previous stimulus bill, passed in December last year. The bill is not expected to sail easily through Congress, as Democrats face some hurdles from their Republican colleagues. One of the biggest points of contention is the minimum wage increase, included in the COVID relief bill, over which Republicans and a handful of Democrats have voiced concern.

This week senate parliamentarian Elizabeth McDonough will hold a hearing to decide whether the chamber can include the minimum wage increase in a reconciliation bill or if it must be left out. In addition to the wage increase, Republicans and some independents want amendments to the income qualifications for receiving stimulus money. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), along with Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) agree with their GOP colleagues that the income threshold should be dropped below $75,000 so only those Americans most in need would receive the $1,400 stimulus checks. Sinema and Manchin have both stated publicly that they might oppose the wage increase should it move forward as part of the Senate bill.

The House vote is expected to be split down party lines, with Republicans appearing unified in their opinion that a third COVID bill should include funding to increase vaccination efforts but do not believe a third round of stimulus checks to individuals is necessary. Some Republicans have also voiced concerns that the proposed relief bill will negatively impact job markets by overspending. Lead Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, said in a panel last week, “I don’t know if the White House knows this, but you’re supposed to be creating jobs, not killing them.”

The White House has been clear on its position that doing too much is preferable to doing too little on COVID relief, and while President Biden has said he is open to hearing Republican suggestions on how to slash the relief budget, he added, “we have to make clear who we’re helping and who it would hurt.” With only three weeks to get the bill signed into law before unemployment benefits expire, Democrats have chosen to forego formal committee work on the bill, and will hold most of their discussions on amendments behind closed doors. The amendments must make it to a Senate vote before March 14 in order to be passed and signed by the president in time for the deadline.




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