Democrats don’t have much time to fight over the massive Covid measure, with the debate set to begin as early as Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promises to send the bill to Biden’s office by March 14, when the increased federal unemployment benefits expire. The previous coronavirus relief program, which Congress passed in December, allocated an additional $ 300 in weekly unemployment benefits to help the pandemic recover.
A group of moderate Senate Democrats spoke with Biden about the coronavirus relief program on Monday, and the president is expected to speak to the entire Democratic caucus on Tuesday during their virtual lunch. Whether the centrists get the changes they want may hinge on Biden’s conversation with the caucus.
The US Chamber of Commerce endorses the move to cut Biden’s bill. “We need Congress to put in place good policy with highly targeted help to those who need it most,” Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer of the House, said in a statement. “As currently drafted, the US bailout fails the test.”
Senate Democrats said Monday night they will need to make changes to the version of the coronavirus relief bill the House passed last week. That package included a provision that raised the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour by 2025, which the Senate parliamentarian said would break House rules if he stayed on the bill.
“I guess that will probably change, but quite modestly. That would be my guess, ”Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) Said Monday night.
The Senate parliamentarian ruled separately on Monday evening that Democrats can keep health care subsidies in the bill to help laid-off workers stay on health insurance from their former employers. Democrats drafted several versions of the bill to conform to Senate rules. Nothing has yet been finalized before the Senate debate.
Democrats are heading for a marathon voting session on the coronavirus package as early as Thursday. Any senator can propose an amendment to the bill in what is likely to become a Senate night business.
Once the Senate bill is passed, the House will have to revisit it with the changes passed by the Senate before Congress can send the legislation to Biden’s office.
“There really isn’t much dispute over the overall size of the bill,” Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said Monday. “The question is whether it can be targeted in a way that best serves those who need it most and perhaps free up funds for other priorities.”