Senate Democrats and Joe Biden struck a last minute deal over Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill, choosing to keep federal unemployment benefit payments at $400 per week but phase out the measure's $1,400 stimulus checks more quickly. As Politico notes, the decision, which speeds up the phasing out of checks, reflects a demand from moderates to curb the ability of high-income earners to receive the stimulus payments.
Under the agreement, individuals who make up to $75,000 per year or couples who make up to $150,000 per year will still receive a $1,400 check. But the Senate bill, which as we noted earlier will be unveiled as soon as later today, substantially reduces the income window for receiving a partial check: Compared to $100,000 under the House bill the checks will now phase out completely at an income threshold of $80,000 for individuals under the Senate deal. For couples, the checks would phase out completely at an income threshold of $160,000 under the Senate deal, compared to $200,000 for the House bill. The phase-outs will start at $75,000 and $150,000 respectively.
This, as Breaking911 calculates, means that "stimulus checks will now go out to fewer people than under Trump"
Stimulus checks will now go out to fewer people than under Trump— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) March 3, 2021
While the Senate bill changes the checks, it’s expected to keep the House-passed $400 per week unemployment payment, with payments scheduled to last until August.According to report, there had been a push by centrist Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin - who has emerged as the most powerful man in the Senate - to lower the payments to $300 per week, but the idea sparked broad opposition in the Senate Democratic Caucus.
That breakthrough has Democrats ready to press forward on Biden's bill as soon as possible. Biden urged the party to “swallow” provisions they don’t like during a virtual lunch meeting on Tuesday, according to one Senate Democrat. Moderate senators could offer their $300 weekly proposal as an amendment later this week, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he plans to force a vote on a $15 hourly minimum wage.
The disagreement over unemployment benefits was not a big enough problem to derail, or even delay, the party’s push for quick passage of the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill.
Those Democrats said that they expected a relatively smooth process as they race to finish the bill ahead of the March 14 expiration of some boosted unemployment benefits. The Senate is hoping to send its version of the legislation back to the House well before that deadline in order to give states a head start on the logistics of extending those benefits.