“We want it to be bipartisan always, but we can’t surrender if they’re not going to be doing that,” Pelosi told reporters today. “We can not have it happen. We have to act.”
Senate Republicans have opposed a relief plan approaching $2 trillion and broadly object to the inclusion in the bill of liberal priorities such as an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. The Biden plan also includes an additional $1,400 for eligible Americans, tacked onto the $600 stimulus checks sent out earlier this month; an extension of enhanced unemployment benefits through September; money for COVID-19 vaccine production and distribution; funding for state and local governments; and expansion of an existing tax credit for children.
“I suspect the whole package is a nonstarter, but it’s got plenty of starters in it. And a lot of them are things that we proposed in terms of more assistance to the states,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) told the Washington Post this week. “There’s some things in there that aren’t going to happen. There’s some things that can happen. And that’s how this process should work.”
Earlier on the 28th, Schumer indicated strongly that Democrats want a big package, and will employ the budget reconciliation process to move the bill with only 51 votes if Republicans force their hand.
“The Senate, as early as next week, will begin the process of considering a very strong COVID relief bill,” Schumer said. “Our preference is to make this important work bipartisan, to include input, ideas and revisions from our Republican colleagues. But if our Republican colleagues decide to oppose this urgent and necessary legislation, we will have to move forward without them.”
Moving a massive COVID relief package through the reconciliation process would start with the passage of a budget resolution, which Pelosi said the House will pass next week and send to the Senate. The Senate can offer amendments and send it back to the House, and then House committees will have two weeks to mark up their sections of the COVID relief bill before the chamber returns for a floor vote the week of Feb. 22. Pelosi has said she wants a bill passed before extended unemployment benefits expire in mid-March.