What Happens Next With Biden’s Relief Package: Stimulus Update

Congressional committees are set to start crafting legislation next week on specific components of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan after votes in the House and Senate Friday on a budget resolution for 2021.

Friday’s votes in the two chambers set up a legislative course to enact Biden’s stimulus without Republican votes -- a path that the president indicated he now supports, after attempts to win GOP backing for his plan failed.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that Friday’s action sets Congress up to pass the stimulus bill before expanded unemployment benefits expire March 14. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the House plans to vote on the final package the week of Feb. 22.

Congressional Committees to Take Up Biden Stimulus

The Congress on Friday completed work on a 2021 budget resolution with votes in the House and Senate, setting up a tool to bypass the Senate filibuster and any Republican objections.

House committees are planning public sessions next week to work on the text of the $1.9 trillion Biden proposal. The powerful House Ways and Means Committee will likely take three days to process amendments from both parties on its portion of the bill.

Senate committees are also expected to complete work even as former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial takes up the afternoons on the floor of the chamber.

By Feb. 16, the 12 House committees and 11 Senate committees that share jurisdiction over components of the stimulus bill must deliver their portions to the House and Senate budget committees -- which will then assemble the final bill and seek an official score from the Congressional Budget Office.

The Senate Budget Committee will also work with the parliamentarian to make sure all parts of the bill comply with the Senate Byrd rule -- which requires that provisions don’t add to the federal deficit after 10 years. The Byrd rule also requires that the bill complies with the instructions in the budget and that it doesn’t include measures that aren’t primarily fiscal in nature.

In the week of Feb. 22, the House aims to vote on the stimulus bill, sending it to the Senate. If the Senate is finished with the impeachment trial, it could also begin votes on the bill later that week. Any changes the Senate makes would require the House vote again. The House and Senate could resolve differences through a formal conference committee or by bouncing the legislation back and forth until an identical bill passes both chambers. -- Erik Wasson

Yellen Working to Improve Small Business Help

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Friday she would address the “failures” of last year’s Paycheck Protection Program, which she said did not reach enough small and minority owned businesses.

Yellen, speaking at a virtual meeting with members of the Black Chambers of Commerce alongside Vice President Kamala Harris, also provided a dour outlook for the economy after Friday’s weaker-than-forecast jobs report for January.

“We need to get through some dark months here and deal with the pandemic and get the economy on track,” she said. -- Saleha Mohsin

House to Vote on Budget After Passage in Senate (8:40 a.m.)

The House is set to vote Friday on a budget resolution for the 2021 fiscal year, a move that will enable House and Senate committees to start detailed work on Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal.

The Senate approved the resolution early Friday after nearly 15 hours of wading through amendments from both parties. Slight changes to the version the House passed on Wednesday mean the House will need to vote again.

Two non-binding Senate amendments that did pass -- calling for a bar on stimulus checks going to “upper income” Americans, and for holding off on a minimum-wage hike in the near term while the economy is battling the pandemic -- suggest the potential for components of Biden’s plan to be altered by Congress.

Before adoption, Senate Democrats removed three amendments -- related to barring stimulus checks to illegal immigrants, the Keystone XL pipeline and fracking -- that could have caused the budget to lose votes it needs in the House. A remaining amendment supporting the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem could cause some defections from progressives.

Pelosi can only lose four votes and still have enough to pass the measure if all members vote. Two deficit hawks, Jared Golden of Maine and Ed Case of Hawaii, voted no on the budget earlier this week.

House and Senate committees would have until Feb. 16 to write the stimulus legislation under the instructions in the budget. -- Erik Wasson

Problem Solvers Demand Vote on $160 Billion Covid Package (6:40 a.m.)

A bipartisan group of 56 House members is calling for an immediate vote on a $160 billion package of funds for coronavirus vaccinations, testing, tracing and health-provider funding.

The Problems Solvers Caucus was instrumental in propelling the December agreement on the $900 billion Covid-19 relief bill. Now, the group says that health funding is needed immediately even as wider talks on stimulus checks, unemployment insurance, child tax credits and other provisions continue.

Ten Senate Republicans have said they support the $160 billion in health-related spending, which was also part of Biden’s $1.9 trillion package. Those 10 GOP members would give the 60 votes needed for a standalone bill to pass the Senate using the normal legislative process.

The call comes after 18 Democrats on Thursday demanded a vote on $20 billion for a national vaccination program -- one component of the $160 billion slice of the Biden plan -- citing the possibility that wider stimulus talks get bogged down for months.

The Biden administration has rejected any “piecemeal” approach to stimulus, and House and Senate Democrats this week began the multi-step budget process that could be used to pass a stimulus bill with just 50 Democratic votes in the Senate. -- Erik Wasson

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