Schumer says "we'll have the votes" to pass COVID relief bill

Rodiano Bonacci
Marzo 3, 2021

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 can not remain in the bill.

The House of Representatives narrowly approved the bill to fight the pandemic and boost the economy early Saturday.

"We want people to get back to work", Manchin said.

The president urged Senate Democrats during a lunchtime call Tuesday to stay united behind the bill, arguing that it's broadly popular with the public and controversial only on Capitol Hill, according to two Democrats who spoke on the condition of anonymity to recount the private comments.

Democrats have a very narrow majority in the upper house: there are 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans but in the event of a tie Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris casts a deciding vote.

The measure would pay for vaccines and send a new round of aid to households, small businesses and state and local governments. It also has money for child care, tax breaks for families with children and states willing to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income residents.

The Senate's number two Democrat, Dick Durbin, said lawmakers should look for another venue to raise the minimum wage, but that it will be a challenge.

"And I want to be clear: It's the things the majority of Americans strongly support", the Massachusetts Democrat continued.

Neither idea seemed to have the support among Democrats or the White House needed to succeed. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) both stressed the necessity of eliminating the filibuster in the wake of the Senate parliamentarian's advisory ruling against the inclusion of a minimum wage increase in the emerging coronavirus relief package.

This is the soul of the Democratic Party, he said of the proposal.

"We're just looking for a targeted bill", said Manchin, whose support Democrats need to pass the so-called American Rescue Plan (ARP) without any Republican votes.

The huge relief package is a too-big-to-fail moment for the fledging president, who would be politically staggered if Congress - controlled narrowly by Democrats but controlled nonetheless - failed to deliver. Joe Manchin of West Virginia on Monday yelled at reporters that he will "never" agree to scrapping the 60-vote threshold standing in the way of his own party's agenda. They also might extend its fresh round of emergency unemployment benefits, which would be $400 weekly, through September instead of August, as the House approved. That is certain to be divisive and draw strong opposition from progressives. Now it's up to the Senate to pass their version and changes are expected.

Biden will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by the end of his term. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Ron Wyden of OR followed up with a backup proposal to levy penalties on large corporations that didn't pay workers below an undetermined wage.

But that plan was dropped, Democrats said Monday, with Sanders saying the proposal would have been too easy for employers to evade.

Senate Democrats had floated a Plan B - hiking taxes on companies that don't pay their employees a given wage - but are apparently shelving that plan for the time being. But in the US Senate, it takes 60 votes - or arcane maneuvers like budget "reconciliation" - to get much of anything done thanks to the filibuster, a Senate rule allowing a senator or senators from the minority party to hold up a bill, which has ossified into a permanent obstacle.

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