President Joe Biden has said he intends to work with Congress to pass a coronavirus relief package that would include sending $1,400 checks to millions of Americans, but he could see a fight on his hands, because some Republicans say any further stimulus money should be directed only to the people who need it the most.
According to Biden’s proposal, a direct payment of $1,400 would be part of a $1.9 trillion package of economic stimulus that includes increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, $20 billion for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, and an extension of federal unemployment benefits, among other measures.
Here is a look at what we know about a possible third stimulus check.
Will a third check be coming?
Both Biden and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the new majority leader in the Senate, have said they intend to send out a third stimulus check. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-N.Y., also wants to see another direct payment to Americans.
While most Republicans agree that more money is needed, some say the payments should not go to every American, but only to those who need the money the most.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said in a confirmation hearing this week that he felt Biden’s plan “would be a colossal waste and economically harmful.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, said on CNN’s State of the Union earlier this month that if money is to be sent out, he would be in favor of sending it to where it is most needed.
“It’s time now to target where the money goes,” Manchin said.
Are the votes there for a bill to pass?
With the opposition to sending out an additional $1,400 by some in Congress, can those who support the payments get enough votes to pass a bill?
While Democrats have the majority in both the House and the Senate, those majorities are slim.
In the Senate, there are 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, with the majority determined by the fact Vice President Kamala Harris has the tiebreaking vote. The problem Biden’s plan could run into is that most Senate bills need to cross a 60-vote threshold to pass. In other words, every Democrat and at least 10 Republicans must vote for the bill for it to pass.
What could Senate Democrats do? There is a process known as budget reconciliation that allows for a spending bill to pass on a simple majority vote, but this would limit what can be in the bill.
Democrats currently hold a 10-vote advantage in the House, 222-to-212 (one House seat is vacant). Bills in the House pass on a simple majority vote – 50%, plus one.
How quickly could a bill containing a direct payment pass?
A nearly $2 trillion spending bill will spark debate and likely take some time for discussion. With the Senate attempting to confirm Biden’s Cabinet nominations and the possibility of an impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, that timeline may stretch to weeks.
However, according to a story from The New York Times, Senate Democrats plan to prioritize a spending bill by making it their “first order of legislative business.”
Schumer sent a letter to his Senate colleagues saying, “We have an opportunity to work with our House colleagues and a new administration to defeat the virus, provide the relief the American people need, and reunite the country.”
Schumer said a relief bill would contain the $1,400, on top of the $600 individual payments Congress approved last month, to equal a $2,000 payment to millions of Americans.
Passing a bill that has several parts and costs in the trillions of dollars will take time — perhaps until late February or early March, and as Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki put it, “The package was designed with the $1.9 trillion as a starting point. This is a discussion, it’s a conversation, and [Biden] is no stranger to the process of bill making ... Rarely does it look exactly like the initial package that is proposed.”
However, by introducing a bill that would include only the third stimulus payment, the legislation could make it to a vote in the House as early as next week, writes Jake Sherman of Punchbowl News.
“House Dems are considering passing legislation next week w new vaccine money/direct payments — a chance to put some points on the board,” Sherman, a former Politico writer tweeted.