Democrats weigh options to pass Biden’s massive COVID relief bill

In his inaugural speech on Wednesday, President Biden referred to as on a deeply divided America to embrace bipartisanship, to “join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.”

“This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward,” Mr. Biden mentioned.

Democratic leaders in Congress have echoed that sentiment. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer mentioned in a speech on Wednesday that he would goal to legislate on a bipartisan foundation when potential, as “the Senate works best when we work together.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi instructed reporters on Thursday that members of Congress “have a responsibility to find bipartisanship where we can.”

But it’s unclear whether or not the slender Democratic majorities in Congress might be ready to implement Mr. Biden’s bold legislative agenda with the help of Republicans. The president unveiled his $1.9 trillion coronavirus financial relief plan final week, which incorporates $400 billion to arrest the unfold of COVID-19 and improve vaccine capabilities; over $1 trillion to help households needing direct monetary help; and $440 billion in emergency funds for cash-poor small companies and communities.

While the measure has garnered widespread Democratic help, Republicans have beforehand balked at stimulus payments proposed within the House with excessive value tags. 

If the bill is unable to entice sufficient help from Republicans, Democrats have a few options: they could pass it by means of the price range reconciliation course of or by eliminating the legislative filibuster. Most payments require 60 votes within the Senate to finish debate and arrange a full vote on the Senate flooring. A filibuster happens when a bill does not obtain 60 votes to finish debate. 

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer might invoke the “nuclear option,” a procedural maneuver that might enable the Senate to finish debate on a bill with solely a easy majority of votes.

Democrats have the narrowest potential majority, simply 50 seats within the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting any tie-breaking vote.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Schumer in opposition to eliminating the filibuster, saying in a speech on the Senate flooring on Thursday that Democrats mustn’t accomplish that “if the talk of unity and common ground is to have meaning.” Some Democrats have additionally expressed opposition to eliminating the filibuster, worrying that Republicans would then find a way to simply reverse Democratic laws and implement their priorities with solely a easy majority as soon as they regain the bulk. Without the filibuster, the minority has much less energy — and Democrats know they’re going to be within the minority once more in the end.

The different possibility — passing the bill by means of price range reconciliation — would keep away from eliminating the filibuster however would nonetheless be divisive, as it could enable the measure to pass with none Republican help. But it could additionally expedite procedures within the House and the Senate, which means that the bill may very well be handed extra shortly.

However, the laws may very well be topic to what is thought colloquially because the “Byrd rule,” which limits the provisions that may be included in a bill handed by means of reconciliation. The rule, named for the late Senator Robert Byrd, prohibits “extraneous” provisions in reconciliation, in order that solely gadgets affecting federal budgetary spending are included. Some of the provisions in Mr. Biden’s proposal, equivalent to elevating the minimal wage to $15 per hour and implementing paid household go away, might not qualify for inclusion below the Byrd rule.

But many Democrats stay optimistic that Mr. Biden’s bill will entice Republican help, and are holding the choice of reconciliation in reserve.

“I think there’s going to be a fair amount of debate, but I’m reasonably optimistic we’ll be able to get 60 votes. It’s better when we can. Then you’ve got bipartisan buy-in, and I think that’s a much stronger position to work from,” Senator Angus King, an impartial who caucuses with the Democrats, instructed CBS News. King is one in all 16 lawmakers who has joined a bipartisan coalition within the Senate aiming to pass coronavirus laws. The group could have a name with Brian Deese, Biden’s financial adviser, within the coming days, a supply acquainted confirmed to CBS News.

Senator Bernie Sanders, the highest Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, instructed reporters on Wednesday that “we’ve got to reach out to Republicans.”

“I hope many of them understand the crises that we’re facing. But if they don’t, we’ve got to go forward with reconciliation,” Sanders mentioned.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki mentioned in her first press briefing on Wednesday that Mr. Biden’s “clear preference is to move forward with a bipartisan bill.”

“But we are also not going to take any tools off the table for how the Senate, the House and Senate can get this urgent package done,” Psaki mentioned.

The Senate might be extremely busy within the coming weeks. In addition to passing the relief bill — by means of price range reconciliation or in any other case — Mr. Biden’s cupboard nominees should nonetheless be confirmed, and as soon as the House sends the article of impeachment in opposition to former President Trump, the Senate should conduct its impeachment trial.

Meanwhile, the necessity for a coronavirus relief bill stays pressing. More than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus, and thousands and thousands have lost their jobs because of the financial fallout.

Back to top button