“We must move swiftly and pass it in the Senate,” Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez tweeted after the House vote. “The people need help now.”
But the bill that will emerge from the Senate will be different than the one the House sent the chamber. Some senators already have discussed making changes, and there will be other amendments as the bill winds its way through the various committees, just as it did in the House.
“This is democracy in action,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We know that the bill will look different on the way out.”
Here are three ways the Senate bill could be different from the House version:
1. $1,400 stimulus checks. The House-passed version included $1,400 checks for individuals making up to $75,000 and couples filing jointly making up to $150,000. Those were the same thresholds in the first two rounds of stimulus payments.
Senators of both parties have discussed better targeting the payments to lower income individuals by reducing the threshold for receiving any checks. The current proposal would phase out the checks for individuals making between $75,000 and $100,000, and couples making between $150,000 and $200,000.
“Is that the sort of focus American people would want?” U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “I think they would like a little bit more focus.”
Biden is willing to negotiate further on who should get a payment, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
“He has not been willing to negotiate on the size of the checks, but there has been a targeting to ensure that it hits the Americans who need that help the most,” Psaki said on CNN. “That’s an idea that has come up in meetings with Democrats and Republicans. And he’s certainly open to hearing from their ideas.”
But New Jersey lawmakers have said that reducing the thresholds would hurt New Jersey and other states with higher costs of living.
2. State and local aid. U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., has suggested that $50 billion of the $350 billion in federal assistance for state and local governments included in the stimulus bill be reallocated to expand high-speed internet connections.
Three House members, including Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-5th Dist., have called for something similar.
“As Congress considers additional relief efforts to manage the virus, it must continue to recognize that an investment in high-speed broadband internet for all Americans is a necessary component of our nation’s recovery,” Gottheimer and two other lawmakers, Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., and Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., said in a letter to House leaders.
The president of the National Association of Counties, Republican Judge/Executive Gary Moore of Broome County, Kentucky, said his county already is expanding broadband, so the federal government doesn’t need to tell him how to spend the aid.
“Infrastructure creates jobs,” he said on a conference call with reporters last week. “It restarts the economy and it could be a huge boost to counties across the country.”
Some senators cited a recent report from Moody’s Analytics, which said states and localities faced a budget gap of $61 billion, far less than the $350 billion in the bill.
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, however, pegged the shortfall at $300 billion, not including the extra expenses associated with the coronavirus, such as providing personal protective equipment for first responders, and help for residents suffering from the economic downturn.
The progressive research group said state and local government employment was down by 1.4 million people due to the pandemic.
3. Minimum wage. The House voted to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour in increments by 2025, a year after New Jersey would reach that level. The federal bill also would include tipped restaurant workers, unlike New Jersey
But Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough said the provision couldn’t be included in the Senate version under reconciliation, the procedure Democrats are using to prevent Republicans from filibustering the stimulus and allow it to clear Congress by majority vote.
That has Senate Democrats scrambling to raise the wage in a way that would pass muster with the parliamentarian.
“We’re going to make this happen,” Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press. “We’re going to find a way to. It’s just too important not to.”
Still, two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have said they won’t support a $15 an hour minimum wage.
“If I’m someone who is always willing to negotiate with Republicans, I’m willing to negotiate with Democrats as well,” U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said on CNN. “Let’s start with what we all agree on, that the federal minimum wage of $7.25 is too low. It has to be raised. Every Democrat and many Republicans agree with that.”
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