Senate Democrats Move to Put Biden Stimulus Plan on Fast Track

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Senate Democrats Tuesday put President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan on a fast track to passage, increasing the likelihood it eventually passes on a party-line vote.

With a 50-49 vote Tuesday, the Senate opened debate on a budget resolution for the 2021 fiscal year, a maneuver that would clear the way for the president’s relief plan to pass in the chamber with a simple majority rather than the 60-vote threshold for most legislation.

The Senate will take up final passage of the resolution on Thursday. The House is voting this week on its version as well.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the process, known as reconciliation, is open to GOP participation and the stimulus package can still be tweaked with their input. But he said Democrats won’t risk moving slowly or timidly to bolster the economy.

“We are not going to dilute, dither or delay,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

After both chambers act, House and Senate committees will have until Feb. 16 to craft the elements of a stimulus bill. That legislation will have to stay below $1.9 trillion and adhere to Senate rules against including non-fiscal provisions to remain immune from a Republican filibuster.

Republicans said that starting now on the fast-track budget process shows that Biden isn’t serious about trying to strike a bipartisan stimulus deal.

“I don’t think he has much control over the far left of his caucus,” said Indiana Republican Senator Todd Young, who attended a Monday Oval Office meeting with Biden on stimulus.

Biden told Senate Democrats on Tuesday that the proposal from the ten Republicans of $618 billion is too small to be acceptable and urged them to do something bolder, Schumer told reporters afterward.

All Democrats and independents will have to stick together on the reconciliation bill as well as the budget given the 50-50 split in the Senate. It’s still not certain that Democrats will have the 50 votes they need to pass on a stimulus bill on their own.

Moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana have said they are willing to move the process along but will seek changes in the Biden plan, including proposals to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

As part of the process, the Senate on Thursday likely will engage in a marathon series of votes on amendments that could go through the night and into the morning. In 2013 one such session lasted all until 5 a.m.

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