The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Senate’s version of the pandemic-relief plan falls within the limit previously set by Congress for the bill. The faster phase-out of stimulus checks in the Senate’s version of the pandemic-relief bill saves about $12 billion, according to a separate nonpartisan estimate.
Democratic senators agreed to a raft of tweaks to the legislation passed by the House last week, as President Joe Biden seeks a win on first signature piece of legislation.
The Senate voted to begin debate on the bill Thursday, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting a tie-breaking vote. Republicans are using the delaying tactic of demanding a full reading of the bill, and plan amendment proposals to showcase their opposition to the $1.9 trillion bill, which they say is too big.
Democratic congressional leaders have pledged to get final passage of the aid bill by March 14, when supplementary unemployment benefits expire.
CBO Finds Senate Version of Aid Bill Within Limits
The Congressional Budget Office estimated the 10-year cost of the Senate’s version of the pandemic-relief bill at $1.863 trillion — within the $1.889 trillion limit set in the budget resolution approved last month by the two houses of Congress.
The CBO had found the House’s version to be $31 billion over the limit set under the fast-track process known as reconciliation that Democrats are using to approve the bill with a simple majority in the Senate.
Most of the spending in the bill comes this year, with the bulk of the remaining outlays in 2022, the CBO said Thursday evening.
Senate’s Stimulus-Payment Change Shaves off $11.7 Billion (6:09 p.m.)
The faster phase-out of stimulus checks in the Senate’s version of the pandemic relief bill means the Internal Revenue Service would send out about $11.7 billion less in direct payments, according to estimates by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.
The Senate version being debated includes $410.6 billion for the direct payments, down from $422.3 billion in the House version, after a change requested by moderate Democrats to phase out the payments more quickly.
Under the current version, individuals earning up to $75,000 or couples earning up to $150,000 get the full $1,400 payment per household member. Those payments zero out at $80,000 for singles or $160,000 for joint filers. A previous version of the bill had given singles earning as much as $100,000 or couples making as much as $200,000 a smaller payment.
In total, the $589.6 billion tax-break portion of the bill costs about $4 billion more than the House version because of additional items, including an expansion of an employee-retention tax credit for startup companies and tax relief for student loans. — Laura Davison
Democrats Tweak Aid Bill Before Senate Debate (2:26 p.m.)
Senate Democrats were working until the last minute making numerous changes to the House version of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, with a new version expected to be released in the coming hours ahead of a vote to open debate on the legislation.
Among the changes are $510 million for emergency food and shelter disaster assistance, $8.5 billion for rural hospitals, an increase of $200 million for Amtrak and $750 million for the Economic Development Administration to help sectors like tourism that have been hard hit in the pandemic. Funding for public broadcasting and the Federal Trade Commission are also increased.
The new version of the bill has more explicit directions for the allocation of the $350 billion in state and local funding and has $10 billion for critical infrastructure such as broadband Internet.
Maine Senator Angus King was among those pushing for changes, one of which will dedicate 40% of the state and local funds to localities.
“I wanted to be sure localities had an iron-clad share of the state and local funding,” King said. He said the bill is “getting close to where I’m comfortable.”
The most recent version will also expand the Employee Retention Tax Credit to new startup companies, provide 100% of health insurance premiums for recently laid-off workers, and make temporary student loan relief during the pandemic tax-free.
The changes are being made to ensure all 50 Democrats are in agreement. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can’t afford to lose a single vote. –Erik Wasson and Laura Litvan
— With assistance by Erik Wasson