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House to vote on $ 1.9 trillion COVID relief bill this week as Senate considers minimum wage hike

Washington – The House is expected to approve President Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal later this week in an online vote, after the House budget committee brought forward the bill on Monday. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced Tuesday evening that the House would vote on the bill on Friday.

While the slim Democratic majority in the House will likely pass the bill as is, it’s unclear whether any provision raise the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour by 2025 will be included in the final version of the Senate bill.

The bill, which includes $ 1,400 in direct payments to Americans earning less than $ 75,000, additional funds for vaccine distribution and state and local government funding, was approved by the Budget Committee on Monday by a 19-16 vote. Congressman Lloyd Doggett was the only Democrat to join Republicans to vote against the bill, although a spokesperson for Doggett later said in a statement that his “no” was a mistake and that he “supports COVID-19 relief legislation.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters on Tuesday that he believed the final bill would be passed by March 14, when the improved unemployment benefits established by relief legislation passed in the end of last year were to expire.

“We will meet this deadline,” Schumer said, adding that the final bill will “not be exactly the same, but very close to the bill proposed by President Biden.”

Republicans hesitated at the price of the bill and expressed dismay that Democrats are using a process known as budget reconciliation pass the bill, which will allow it to go through the Senate without any Republican votes. Most legislations need 60 votes to advance in the Senate, and Democrats hold a narrow majority of 50 seats, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting a deciding vote. Budget reconciliation would allow Democrats to pass the bill by a simple majority.

However, there are strict rules for using the budget reconciliation process, such as the “Byrd Rule”, which requires all provisions of the bill to be budget-related and must not increase the federal deficit after a budget window. of 10 years. Senate MP Elizabeth MacDonough, who advises the Senate on procedural matters, will have to rule on whether to include the $ 15 minimum wage under the Byrd rule.

Democratic and Republican Senate staff are expected to meet with parliamentarian this week to make their arguments for and against including the minimum wage provision.

“We will wait for his judgment before we go any further,” Schumer said Tuesday of MacDonough.

However, even if the parliamentarian votes against the inclusion of the minimum wage, Democrats in the Senate could make the controversial decision to abandon the decision.

But if MacDonough decides the minimum wage hike can be included in the final bill, that provision was pushed back by Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, complicating the prospects of its passage in the Senate. Manchin suggested changing the law to instead raise the minimum wage to $ 11.

“$ 11 is the right place to be,” he told reporters on Monday. “Throwing $ 15 right now is making it very difficult in rural America.”

Schumer told reporters Democrats have had “great unity” since winning the majority in January, adding that he had spoken to members of his caucus about the importance of passing. relief bill.

If the minimum wage provision were removed from the relief bill, the Senate may reach a compromise on a separate bill increasing the minimum wage. Republican Senators Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton on Tuesday introduced a bill to raise the minimum wage to $ 10 an hour by 2025. However, the bill includes stricter penalties for employers who hire workers. undocumented immigrants, which would likely be a poison pill for most Democrats.

Raising the minimum wage is very popular, a 2019 poll by the Pew Research Center showing that 67% of Americans support increasing the minimum wage to $ 15. It even enjoys the support of some Red states, as evidenced by a Florida voting initiative to raise the minimum wage hike to $ 15 by 2026, which was passed with the support of more than 60% of voters. in the last elections. Progressive Democrats can take a hard line on raising the minimum wage and refuse to support the bill unless it includes a $ 15 minimum wage, creating a showdown with more moderate party members.

“Why do we never ask moderates to compromise?” Progressive Democrat MP Ro Khanna asked in a Tweeter Monday. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chair of the House Progressive Caucus, said in a Tweeter Monday that raising the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour “IS COVID relief.”

Senator Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has repeatedly expressed confidence that the parliamentarian will vote in favor of authorizing the increase in the minimum wage and that she will pass to the Senate with the support from all Democrats.

“I think Democrats are going to support the President of the United States and the overwhelming majority of the American people want to pass this emergency COVID bill,” Sanders told reporters on Monday. “I think we’ll pass it as is.”


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