Top Democrat Says House Will Vote on Friday: Stimulus Update

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The House vote on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill will be held on Friday, the majority leader announced. Biden on Tuesday indicated the congressional vote on the legislation would be close, speaking after GOP Senator Susan Collins said she doesn’t expect a single Republican vote in favor of it.

Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders said the Senate’s parliamentarian could rule as soon as Wednesday on whether a proposed minimum-wage hike can be included in the fast-track bill. While the package that the House is expected to vote on in coming days includes the president’s plan to phase in a $15-per-hour minimum wage, two moderate Democratic senators currently say they oppose that component of the legislation.

Senate leaders meantime previewed what’s next. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he expects Biden’s second, longer-term economic package “very soon” after the pandemic-aid bill. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that he believes Democrats will include tax hikes in that next bill, predicting the majority party would push for a corporate tax rate in excess of Biden’s 28% proposal.

Hoyer Says House Will Vote on Friday

The U.S. House will vote Friday on Biden’s American Rescue Plan, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday night

“The American people strongly support this bill, and we are moving swiftly to see it enacted into law,” Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, wrote on Twitter. -- John Harney

Biden Continues Outreach Amid GOP Opposition (3:32 p.m.)

Biden met in a virtual roundtable with Black essential workers on Tuesday, continuing the administration’s outreach as it aims to build support for the $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief plan. The president acknowledged that the vote in Congress will be close.

“If we get this bill passed -- which we’re not going to pass by a lot, but we’re optimistic -- we’re going to make some real changes,” Biden said Tuesday at the White House during the roundtable.

The group included firefighters and other first-responders, and the discussion featured a call for funding down to the local level to help avert budget cuts and layoffs. A notable element of the Biden aid plan is $350 billion for state and local governments, an element lacking from the December pandemic-aid package.

The House Budget Committee on Monday voted to advance Biden’s bill, setting up a vote before the full House later this week. No Republicans on the panel voted in favor.

Key Republican Sees Zero GOP Votes for Biden’s Relief Bill (1:42 p.m.)

Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, told reporters Tuesday she doesn’t see a single GOP vote for Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief bill. She suggested that while Biden himself was interested in bipartisan dialogue, that was blocked by aides.

“I would be surprised if there was support in the Republican caucus if the bill comes out at $1.9 trillion, even if we’re able to make some beneficial changes to the amendment process,” Collins said. “The sticking point is that the White House staff seems very wedded to the $1.9 trillion.”

Collins, a potentially key swing vote given the 50-50 partisan split in the Senate, said Biden is “doing a good job at outreach.” She said that when she and nine other Republicans floating a $618 billion aid proposal went to the White House, Biden “was very attentive, gracious into the details. There was a great discussion.”

Democratic leaders are using the budget reconciliation process to push Biden’s bill through, as it can pass in the Senate with a simple majority. -- Erik Wasson

Sanders Expects Minimum-Wage Ruling as Soon as Wednesday (12:51 p.m.)

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders said he expects a key Senate official to rule as soon as Wednesday on whether a $15 minimum wage increase can be included in the fast-tracked Covid-19 relief of bill.

If the parliamentarian rules that the wage hike has only an incidental fiscal impact, that could doom its inclusion. Reconciliation bills are designed to be predominantly fiscal in nature. Lack of Republican support for the overall bill raises the hurdle for the wage-measure’s inclusion.

The Congressional Budget Office did determine that the proposal would add to budget deficits, but the question remains as to whether the impact is big enough to qualify. The minimum wage may also run afoul of reconciliation rules against creating deficits after 10 years, based on the CBO score. That could be remedied by offsetting it with other savings or revenue.

Approval by the parliamentarian would set off a battle between Democrats, setting two moderate Democrats opposing the measure against the Sanders wing of the party.

Budget Committee Staff Director Warren Gunnels said that Democrats are also seeking rulings from the parliamentarian on the multiemployer pension bailout that was included in the House bill, as well as premium subsidies for laid-off workers who buy into former employers’ health-care plans through a program known as COBRA.

If the pensions bailout is ruled out of order, that could resolve another sticking point in the Democrats’ bill. House members carved out funding for that provision by keeping the extension of enhanced unemployment benefits to five months, rather than the six that some senators favor. Taking out the pension money would provide the opportunity to extend the jobless aid to September. -- Erik Wasson

Republican Duo Offers $10 Minimum-Wage Proposal (10 a.m.)

Republican Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Tom Cotton of Arkansas released a proposal to boost the national minimum wage to $10 an hour. That’s well below the $15 favored by President Joe Biden, but is presented as an opening offer if Democrats are unable to push through Biden’s version in the Covid-19 relief bill.

The Romney-Cotton bill is tied to stricter immigration controls, which likely make it a non-starter for most Democrats. It would require all employers to check the immigration status of employees and job applicants after 18 months. Currently federal workers and employers in some states are required to check status using the E-Verify computerized system. Some Democrats have argued that until long-term undocumented immigrants are given a path to citizenship, the E-verify system should not be mandatory.

“American workers today compete against millions of illegal immigrants for too few jobs with wages that are too low,” Cotton said. Romney said the bill would boost wages while “eliminating one of the key drivers of illegal immigration.”

Under the Romney-Cotton proposal, the $7.25 hourly federal minimum wage would rise to $10 per hour four years after the Covid-19 pandemic is declared over and the wage would be linked to the chained consumer price index inflation measure thereafter. Businesses with fewer than 20 employees would have a slower phase-in of six years, unlike the Democratic proposal.

The sponsors say the increase would affect 21 states that don’t currently have a minimum wage of $10 or above, though nine of those are slated to reach $10 before the bill would take effect. -- Erik Wasson

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