President Joe Biden is already confronting political and logistical hurdles to his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan.
The new round of coronavirus relief might not get a vote until mid-March, when the $300 weekly unemployment benefit expires, Punchbowl News reported.
Last week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would be ready to vote on the bill by the first week of February.
But things get complicated on the Senate side. With the filibuster rule in place, the bill could get derailed unless the Democrats can get 10 Republicans to join them in closing debate and moving on with a vote, a process known as cloture.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell holds substantial leverage over the process, given the 50-50 split and the power-sharing agreement between the two parties.
And two members of the Democratic caucus might prevent the stimulus package as it’s written from passing.
Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Angus King of Maine have objected to certain aspects of the proposal, such as direct payments going to families making $300,000 a year.
As Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig reported last week, Manchin is set to wield substantial influence over any major legislation pushed by Biden and the Democrats.
Manchin is a moderate who holds several positions at odds with the Democratic consensus, particularly on deficit spending and climate change. He has supported the coal industry and expressed skepticism about an overly broad use of direct payments.
There is a way for the Democrats to pass the bill without a 60-vote filibuster-proof majority.
Instead of going down the conventional path, Democrats could use the budget-reconciliation process, which would allow them to pass the bill with just 51 votes. That could theoretically happen with no Republican support and with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, the new chairman of the budget committee, has advocated using budget reconciliation on a variety of issues. Sanders once again called for it over the weekend, saying Democrats could not “wait weeks and weeks” for GOP support.
In a briefing last week, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, did not rule out budget reconciliation.
But going through budget reconciliation would not necessarily be a faster way to pass the bill than getting the 60 votes to clear the filibuster.
Reconciliation comes with a so-called vote-a-rama, in which any senator could propose an amendment to the bill. The last time this happened was with the tax bill in 2017, when there were more than 700 amendments.
This time around, there could be more than 1,000, according to Punchbowl News.
With that out of the way, multiple House and Senate committees would need to essentially rewrite the bill. The scope of Biden’s stimulus plan would require more committees than usual to get involved in a process normally dominated by the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate finance committee.
It’s still early for the Biden administration, but a lot would need to go its way simultaneously for the stimulus package to land on the president’s desk by February.
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