Congressional Democrats are still discussing the details of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package and their options for bringing legislation to the floor quickly.
While Biden has said he wants to give Republicans a chance to get on board with his first legislative effort as president, several Senate Republicans have recently questioned the need for a new bill with that high a price tag. Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) both pointed out this week that Congress already passed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill last month.
“The ink is just barely dry on the $900 billion, and what the president is proposing is significant — $1.9 trillion,” Murkowski said. “It’s going to require, I think, a fair amount of debate and consideration.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who gave her first briefing at the White House last evening, said the White House will continue to meet with lawmakers from both parties to address any concerns in the plan. She said Biden’s “clear preference is to move forward with a bipartisan bill…We hope, and frankly, we expect Republicans in Congress – and Democrats too – will support assistance that will bring relief to the people they represent.”
With the Senate now evenly split at 50-50, Biden would need at least 10 Republicans to ensure passage through the chamber. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has not ruled out using the budget reconciliation process to move the bill with only 51 votes but some provisions of the bill might not qualify for those rules. The Biden plan 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; a minimum wage increase; and expansion of an existing tax credit for children.
Given the challenges of moving legislation quickly through the Senate, which also has to deal with another impeachment trial, some House Democrats are suggesting a smaller bill that would just include the $1,400 checks and cash for vaccine distribution. That bill could draw bipartisan support and could be moved as early as next week, they argue, giving Biden a quick win early in his presidency.