So far, the message from lawmakers is that they want to move swiftly with passing the next round of relief.
We already heard that the House was planning on getting things done in the next week or two which while encouraging was not a huge surprise given that they are fully expected to pass a large relief bill.
But what is surprising is that “Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told senators to be ready to vote as soon as next week on a budget reconciliation package that would lay the groundwork for swift passage.”
“The work must move forward, preferably with our Republican colleagues, but without them if we must,” Schumer said.
“Time is of the essence to address this crisis. We’re keeping all options open on the table.”
This is a huge development because it could mean an expedited passage of stimulus checks and other relief measures.
But it could be problematic.
Biden has been promising a focus on unity and it does not seem like going the budget reconciliation route is a method that would strengthen the unity between lawmakers.
If you don’t know, the budget reconciliation method requires only 51 votes in favor versus the traditional process that requires 60 votes.
Using that method feels more like a workaround which could potentially divide the parties even more than they already are.
At the same time, Republicans have used procedural tools to advance certain items such as the Trump administration’s GOP tax cuts.
While the push for the budget reconciliation route is happening, there are also talks happening with the White House and the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus of more than 50 House lawmakers.
Reportedly, these talks have been productive so there is still the possibility that lawmakers in the Senate may take the traditional path to getting a package passed.
“[Biden] laid out his big package, his big vision of what it should look like, and people are giving their feedback,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
“He’s happy to have those discussions and fully expects it’s not going to look exactly the same on the other end.”
The focus on these negotiations is largely on tailoring some of the measures such as stimulus checks so that they do not go out to people who do not need them.
But there is a true sense of urgency coming out of the White House and Congress and it seems like lawmakers want to avoid the protracted battle that we saw through the summer and fall of 2020.
So we will have to see how this clash between providing urgent aid and cutting back on benefits to make them more targeted plays out.
But it is absolutely huge that the Senate is actively talking about quickly pursuing the budget reconciliation route because that is the most aggressive way they can ensure passage of their agenda.
And if they choose to go that route, it is not going to sit very well with Republicans.
It looks like we’re starting to see the preliminary stances on stimulus negotiations take form.
First, we already got a commitment that the House intends on passing the next stimulus bill within the next couple of weeks.
As soon as next week, we might see the full text of the bill and it could potentially even get put to a vote (although that seems a little quick).
Getting a stimulus bill passed through the House is encouraging but it is not the ultimate test for the next package.
The major question is what will happen when it gets to the Senate?
There is serious doubt that a $1.9 trillion package, as currently structured, could garner enough support from Republicans to pass the Senate.
But there are some indicators that negotiations might happen quickly this round and in a way that allows a bill to pass with less resistance.
First, Biden is already hinting at possibly restricting the third round of stimulus checks to a tighter income requirement.
Yesterday, he stated:
“For example, you know I proposed that we — because it was bipartisan, I thought it would increase the prospects of passage — the additional $1,400 in direct cash payment to folks.”
“Well, there’s legitimate reason for people to say, ‘Do you have the lines drawn the exact right way? Should it go to anybody making over X-number of dollars or why?’ I’m open to negotiate those things.”
This type of targeted approach is what Republicans had been talking about over the summer and it is an approach that would likely allow them to get on board much quicker.
What exactly those income thresholds would be, nobody really knows.
But it does seem like new parameters may be necessary given that some key moderate Republicans, who were part of the bipartisan group that drafted the last stimulus bill, are against this Bien proposal because it is not targeted enough.
So those signs seem like Democrats will be likely to concede on the targeted approach but they have not ruled out the alternative method of passing stimulus legislation via the reconciliation route.
This is a route that would only require 51 votes in the Senate to pass a bill which is something Democrats can do since they have 50 members in the Senate along with the tie-breaking vote from the vice president.
“The decision to use reconciliation will depend upon how these negotiations go,” Biden said.
“I don’t expect we’ll know whether we have an agreement or to what extent the entire package will be able to pass or not pass until we get right down to the very end of this process, which will be probably in a couple of weeks.”
So it sounds like we will just have to wait for these talks to shape up over the next couple of weeks and then we might have a better indication of what type of targeted stimulus checks will be proposed and whether or not Democrats will take a more aggressive path to getting their proposal passed.
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