Manchin Wants Unemployment Benefits Scaled Back: Stimulus Update

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is pressing to pare back unemployment benefits in President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic-relief bill. A group of 10 Senate Democrats called on Biden to include another round of direct payments to Americans in his next economic package.

The group of 10, which includes the heads of three key Senate committees, asked Biden in a letter to back stimulus checks, along with automatic unemployment-assistance extensions, that would be tied to economic conditions. Biden is planning to unveil a longer-term economic rebuilding plan once the Covid-19 aid bill is finished.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday his chamber may take up the relief package as early as Wednesday. Senate lawmakers will then debate changes to the version of the bill the House has passed, with Democratic congressional leaders aiming to send the final bill to the White House by March 14.

Key-Moderate Manchin Pushes for Smaller Jobless Benefit

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said Tuesday he’s continuing to push for a key change to the House-passed $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package -- trimming back supplemental unemployment benefits amid Republican attacks on the bill as excessively large given an emerging economic acceleration.

The West Virginia Democrat said he wants enhanced unemployment benefits to come in at $300 per week, the same as the current aid, which runs out in mid-March. The House passed $400 per week in assistance. The enlarged aid may be a hurdle to encouraging people to get back to work, Manchin said.

“It doesn’t incentivize people,” he said of a $400 enhanced benefit. “We want people to get back to work. We’re going to have a hard time getting people ready to go back in and keep the economy going. It would be awful if we open the doors and we have no one working.”

Manchin acknowledged his position is at odds with that of Democratic leaders in the chamber, although his support will be needed to help get the bill through a Senate with a 50-50 partisan split. Republicans in the Senate are united against the package, which they say is too costly. Manchin said he and other Democrats hope to agree on any changes by later Tuesday or Wednesday morning. -- Laura Litvan

Congressional Leaders Show Confidence in Relief Bill’s Passage

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other senior members of the Democratic caucus are expressing confidence their members will unify behind a Covid-19 aid package that will clear the Senate before the week is out, then win final approval in the House.

“It’s an enormously important piece of legislation,” said Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent. “I think everybody understands that and we’re working with the White House.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer predicted that the Senate’s version of the pandemic-relief bill would have little problem getting through his chamber, where Democrats can only afford to lose five votes if all Republicans stick together in opposition.

“It’s going to pass when it comes back” from the Senate, Hoyer said Tuesday. “I can’t believe any amendment the Senate could adopt” would be “so egregious” that House Democrats wouldn’t vote for it, he said. -- Laura Litvan, Billy House

Key Senate Democrats Already Eyeing Next Stimulus (10:12 a.m.)

A group of 10 Senate Democrats, including the chairs of three major committees, are already planning ahead for the next major stimulus package, seeking automatic extensions of unemployment benefits and more direct payments, this time tied to economic conditions.

“We urge you to include recurring direct payments and automatic unemployment insurance extensions tied to economic conditions in your Build Back Better long-term economic plan,” the senators wrote in a letter to Biden. “This crisis is far from over, and families deserve certainty that they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.”

The letter was signed by lawmakers including Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, Banking Chairman Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren.

The Biden administration is planning to unveil its longer-term economic rebuilding program after the pandemic-relief bill is enacted. The second package is set to address an assortment of longer-term priorities, such as infrastructure and climate change, but a detailed run-down has not been announced. -- Steven Dennis

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