Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Monday that the US Senate will take up President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill this week.
The American Rescue Plan has made its way to the Senate after passing a mostly party-line vote in the US House early Saturday morning. The legislation will need to return to the House for final approval before going to Biden for his signature.
The reason the bill will be returned to the House is because the Senate is expected to make some changes to the bill, namely removing a controversial $15 per hour minimum wage provision that a Senate parliamentarian ruled cannot remain in the bill.
"I expect a hardy debate and some late nights, but the American people sent us here with a job to do, to help the country through this moment of extraordinary challenge, to end through action the greatest health crisis our country has faced in a century,” Schumer said.
Democrats are hoping to extend funding for several pandemic-related programs that began during the Trump administration. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation is scheduled to expire in two weeks. Some may be eligible to receive benefits into early April under current guidelines.
The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation extended unemployment benefits to those whose benefits expired. It also provides benefits to those who generally wouldn’t be able to access unemployment compensation, such as gig workers.
While Democrats are feeling urgency to getting the bill passed, Republicans are standing in the way.
“At about 2 on Saturday morning, House Democrats rammed through the bonanza of partisan spending they are calling a ‘pandemic rescue’ package,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. "Only democrats voted for it. Both Republicans and Democrats voted against it. Last year, under a Republican Senate and a Republican administration, Congress passed five historic coronavirus relief bills, five of them. Not one of the five bills got fewer than 90 votes in the Senate or less than about 80% over in the House. But alas, this time, Democrats have chosen to go a completely partisan route.
“Even famous liberal economists and liberal editorial boards are saying their half-baked plan is poorly targeted to what families need. So, we have gone from passing covid relief with 80% and 90% bipartisan supermajorities last year to the speaker of the House ramming this through with just 50.7% of the House on Friday night.”
Democrats are touting the bill as a way to safely help students return to the classroom. There is $140 billion earmarked in the bill for schools, some of which will go toward personal protective equipment and pandemic-related expenses. Some of the funds, however, are set to be used to help schools avoid layoffs from decreased tax revenue.
“About 95% of that funding won't even go out this fiscal year, 95% of the school funding in this bill won't go out this year, and this is an emergency package?” McConnell said. “That's why they are pushing economic policies that would drag down our recovery.”
The stimulus bill includes $1,400 checks for most Americans making less than $75,000 a year. It also includes $1,400 for eligible dependents. The proposal increases the child tax credit to $3,000 per year ($3,600 for children under age 6). And it extends enhanced unemployment benefits through September.
The bill also replenishes funds for small business grants, and adds nearly $130 billion for schools to retain staff and implement social distancing protocols.