© Bloomberg. The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. President Biden’s imperative of swiftly passing his $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief program faces one of its final hurdles, settling disputes among Senate Democrats over how to ensure aid gets to those who truly need it. Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg
(Bloomberg) — President Joe Biden has agreed to moderate Democrats’ demands to narrow eligibility for the $1,400 stimulus payments included in the $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief bill, according to a Democratic aide.
Individuals earning over $80,000 now won’t qualify for the payments, compared with a $100,000 cap in the previously drafted legislation, the aide said on condition of anonymity. The ceiling for couples will now be $160,000 against $200,000 before.
Democratic Senators including Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire had advocated tighter targeting of help to the neediest in the giant Covid-19 assistance package. Their votes will be critical in passing the legislation given the Senate’s 50-50 partisan split and united Republican opposition to Biden’s bill.
A separate push by moderates to trim the $400-a-week supplemental unemployment benefits in the bill that the House passed last week to $300 won’t be included in what is initially brought to the Senate floor, according to the aide. The Senate’s so-called managers’ amendment to the House bill is expected to keep the House’s figure, which is a $100-a-week increase from the current level through August.
The White House declined to comment.
For the stimulus checks, phasing out of the $1,400 payments starts at $75,000 per individual and $150,000 for couples, the same as set in the House bill, the aide said.
“I think we could drop it below the $200,000 and still provide help to households that still need it,” Shaheen said earlier this week in arguing for changes to the stimulus-check eligibility.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether all Senate Democrats have accepted the compromise, although discussions had continued about it into last night. The language Biden approved gives both the moderate and progressive wings of the Senate Democratic caucus one item they wanted in the final negotiations.
Biden met with nine moderate Democrats at the White House earlier this week as he sought their support in enacting his first signature piece of legislation.
The House version of the aid bill must be tweaked, as some of its elements were found to violate congressional rules; among senators’ tasks is removing the minimum-wage hike and slightly trimming the overall cost.
Senate Democrats will proceed with debate on the package once the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation affirm that the managers’ amendment to the House bill qualifies for protections against a filibuster, said a Senate Democratic aide.
(Adds details on phase-out and context of debate starting in third paragraph.)
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