Covid relief negotiations: Stimulus negotiations are in full swing

The next four weeks will test democratic unity and demand that the party’s progressives and moderates put clear philosophical differences aside over the extent of what is needed for recovery right now. It will also cement a reality for President Joe Biden: his first major push in Congress will not be a bipartisan one. Instead, a process is in full swing that allows Democrats to pass this bill through the Senate with only 51 votes.

Bottom line: Congress is out this week, but the quiet work of gathering the Democrats’ opening bid for Covid relief continues this week with Parliament on track to pass their share of the $ 1.9 trillion proposal as soon as next week .

In the next few days, the House Budget Committee will put together the final bill based on the section of sections that committee passed last week. This will ensure that the Democrats are in a place where they can get democracy on board and pass the bill as soon as next week.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a margin of five votes on this bill. This is not the spring of 2020, when the economy was cratering and the uncertainty of the virus was so crippling to the country that lawmakers came together in a few weeks to pass the largest stimulus bill in history with unity. Control over this package – even by some Democrats – is more intense. That does not mean a couple of Republicans do not cross the aisle and vote for it, giving Pelosi perhaps more room to move the legislation on the floor, but see members’ comments over the next few days while at home in the offseason to get an idea of ​​how much of a boost this will be for Parliament’s speeches.

Senate problems

For the past few weeks, House Democrats have not been working in a vacuum as they transformed Biden’s bill into law. Senate Democratic aides from the Finance Committee have consulted with the House Ways and Means panel. The Senate HELP Committee has worked closely with the House Education and Labor panel. Helpers have been in close contact, and Democratic senators have made it clear – both through private nudging and public comment – what they need in the House proposal to make it usable on their side.

The CBO says raising the minimum wage to $ 15 would reduce poverty but increase the deficit and cost jobs

Yet House and Senate Democrats are not in complete unity right now. The expectation is that changes in the House proposal will happen in the Senate, but not in a formal committee, like last week in the House. Instead, the current plan for Democrats is to bring their bill – with some potential changes that have been ironed out privately – directly to the Senate floor. It could happen in the week of March 2nd. But Democrats in the Senate have two weeks to pass their bill before unemployment benefits lapse. And if they pass a bill other than Parliament, the House must pass it again by March 14th.

For those who count at home, it takes 27 days – less than a month – to figure this out.

At that time, Senate Democrats will have to settle a series of internal party debates over the scope of this bill, whether or not they are all willing to spend $ 1.9 trillion, whether or not they are willing to raise the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour. whether they are happy with the house protection lists on stimulus checks that give individuals earning $ 75,000 and couples earning $ 100,000 the full $ 1,400 while gradually phasing out the check amount for higher-earning Americans.

Democrats have largely tried to talk about these issues privately, and most are likely to vote for what comes to the floor given the expectation of giving Americans additional economic benefits will be popular. A Democratic senator told CNN last week, “Look, I’m voting for this no matter what.” But the next three weeks could test democratic unity in a way we have not seen in a long time.

The minimum wage struggle

When Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, was to become the top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, no one in the leadership necessarily expected Democrats to control a 50-50 Senate where Democrats would have and what to do to legislate is potentially in conflict.

The events of January 5th turned the Senate’s dynamics upside down, and Sanders’ role on the panel now as chairman has inevitably pushed the Democratic Senate from the Senate further to the left on some important issues. His staff has been expanded to include old senate hands with a specialty in navigating incorrect senate rules as atonement. Add to that the fact that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is up for re-election in New York State next year and is aware of potential primary challengers (including an energetic House sophomore with a history of deprivation of powerful management members) and well, the dynamics of who has power in these negotiations look very different than they could have had two years ago.
Right now, nothing encapsulates these dynamics more clearly than the struggle for the minimum wage.
The people to be seen: Senator Kyrsten Sinema has reached it clear that she will not vote a Senate Covid relief bill that includes raising the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour.

“Kyrsten is working to ensure that a further relief is laser-focused on meeting Arizona’s immediate needs and believes that all proposals unrelated to those immediate needs – such as the minimum wage increase – should be excluded from the package,” her spokeswoman said in a statement. . to CNN last week.

Without a cinema, the Senate cannot adopt the Covid Emergency Aid proposal, even using the budget process that allows them to adopt it by just 51 votes. Schumer has no margin for error. And China’s threat could jeopardize the entire bill. Not to mention, she is not the only one who in this proposal has expressed concern about raising the minimum wage privately. Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, is also opposed to including this. Whether that would weaken his voice is not so clear.

While Schumer has repeatedly said he works closely with Sanders to try to push it through, other members of the Democratic leadership are more sober about the dynamics.

Asked what it takes to include the minimum wage, majority whip Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, told reporters last week: “I do not know what it will take, but I have heard serious questions asked by some Democratic members about will have to be resolved. “

In other words, the issue of raising the minimum wage right now could seriously jeopardize this Covid relief proposal. Include that you lose at least one moderate senator. Let it be, you risk losing progressives.

A potential way out of this fight for minimum wage

It is very possible that the issue of raising the minimum wage will not be patterned with the Senate parliamentarians. It could save the Democrats the pain of having to call themselves.

To move a bill that uses votingthe senator reviews each provision with staff to ensure that it meets a set of specific criteria. One of these criteria is that it must not only have a random impact on the budget. In other words, the proposal can do nothing else, but then just happen to have a budgetary impact. It should only be in the bill if the purpose is to influence the budget. During the struggle for the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, many provisions on abortion rights were removed from the GOP’s bill because the parliamentarian claimed they had no direct budgetary impact.
But then again the parliamentarian permitted drilling in ANWR to be included in the GOP’s tax bill in 2017. In other words, we should not predict one way or another if the minimum wage of $ 15 would survive. Sanders’ has hired staff specifically to help him navigate this review of the MP known as The Byrd bath, named after the late West Virginia Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, who came up with the rule to prevent both sides from abusing the reconciliation process and trying to use it to just pass legislation that bypassed a filibuster.

These conversations are already well underway now. But it is possible that the senator’s parliamentarian is actually the one who is actually pulling the plug on the matter, which saves the Democrats from having to make the call themselves and risk losing votes.

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