Joe Manchin signals he could torpedo Democratic attempts to bypass Republicans multiple times in a year

Joe Manchin
In this Feb. 13, 2021, file photo Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., departs on Capitol Hill in Washington

  • Manchin suggested he may thwart Democratic attempts to bypass Republicans in Congress more than once.
  • “I simply do not believe budget reconciliation should replace regular order in the Senate,” Manchin wrote in a Post op-ed.
  • It comes as the White House weighs the path ahead for a massive infrastructure plan.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia suggested he could derail Democratic attempts to circumvent Republicans more than once this year, arguing that embarking on the path would be harmful to the nation’s future.

“We should all be alarmed at how the budget reconciliation process is being used by both parties to stifle debate around the major issues facing our country today,” the influential Democrat said in a Washington Post op-ed published on Wednesday evening.

Manchin said that drafting bills was “never supposed to be easy,” adding it was important to address the needs of both rural areas and urban communities in the months ahead.

“I simply do not believe budget reconciliation should replace regular order in the Senate,” Manchin wrote. “How is that good for the future of this nation?”

Manchin was referring to a tactic Democrats employed earlier this year to approve a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package without securing any Republican votes. It comes as a top Senate official delivered a ruling on Monday that may provide Democrats an opening to bypass the GOP at least twice more this year.

Read more: Here are 9 hurdles Biden’s infrastructure plan would have to overcome in Congress before it can become law

Reconciliation is governed with a strict set of rules aimed at ensuring measures are closely related to the federal budget. Using it allows Democrats to pass bills with a simple majority of 51 votes in the Senate and avoid the usual 60-vote threshold.

The White House is starting to sell its $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which includes major funding for roads and bridges, broadband, and in-home elder care among other measures.

The Biden administration outlined a corporate tax plan on Wednesday. It includes a corporate tax increase from 21% to 28%, a step amounting to a partial repeal of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts. Republicans are staunchly opposed to the business tax hikes.

That proposed tax increase recently triggered opposition from Manchin, who said last week he favored a 25% corporate rate instead. The opposition of a single Democratic senator could block the entire passage from clearing the upper chamber.

The dynamic makes Manchin a powerful figure in the Senate. Last month, he forced last-minute changes to unemployment provisions of the stimulus law, delaying votes for almost 11 hours.

Biden said on Wednesday he was open to compromise on a lower rate, though he stressed the need to pay for the plan. “I’m wide open, but we got to pay for this. I am willing to negotiate that,” he said.

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The White House says it wants to pass Biden’s infrastructure package by the summer, sooner than expected

Jen Psaki
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

  • The White House said it wanted to approve a massive infrastructure package by the summer.
  • “At the end of the day, the president’s red line is inaction,” Psaki said at a news briefing.
  • The timeline underscores the Biden administration’s effort to rapidly approve a massive jobs plan.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The White House said on Tuesday that it is aiming to get President Joe Biden’s multitrillion-dollar infrastructure package approved within months, an ambitious timeline that underscores the administration’s desire to quickly muscle a plan through Congress.

“We’d like to see progress by May and certainly a package through by the summer,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a daily news conference.

“At the end of the day, the president’s red line is inaction,” she said. “He won’t tolerate inaction on rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, something that has long been outdated. He believes we need to invest in that so we can improve the lives of ordinary Americans and make it easier to do business.”

The timeline lines up with what Democrats in Congress recently outlined. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week that Democrats aimed to formally assemble the package in early May.

“We look forward to writing a bill, maybe much of it in the first week of May for the infrastructure piece of it. And we’ll see when the Senate then will act upon those proposals,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference on Thursday.

The speaker of the House later added that Democrats would only advance the measure once they have “the best possible bill,” a step that gives them some room to adjust. Pelosi told House Democrats on a caucus call last week she wanted to approve a bill by July 4, though she conceded it could slip to the end of the month, according to a senior Democratic aide.

Some Democrats have eyed September as a possible deadline for action, given the need for Congress to renew a highway funding bill by then.

Biden unveiled a large $2 trillion plan last week, the first of two proposals aimed at modernizing the nation’s infrastructure. The plan contained new funds to repair aging roads and bridges, eliminate lead pipes from water systems, and set up new rural broadband networks.

It also included money to support in-home care of elderly Americans to upgrade the nation’s electric grid and steadily phase out fossil fuels to combat climate change.

The second proposal, with major spending on childcare and education, is set to be released later this month. The pair of plans will form the centerpiece of Biden’s economic agenda.

However, the package has also set off substantial GOP opposition for its large scope and proposed tax increases on multinational corporations. Republicans are also critical of the swift timeline from Democrats in recent weeks.

That opposition, however, isn’t confined to Republicans. At least two Democratic senators, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia, say major elements of Biden’s plan should be adjusted to gain their votes. Manchin said he wanted a smaller corporate tax hike from 21% to 25% instead – not the 28% rate Biden is seeking.

On Monday evening, a top Senate official ruled that Democrats could revisit an earlier budget resolution used for the $1.9 trillion stimulus package to approve another bill without Republican support. That potentially opens the door for them to implement at least two more tax-and-spending measures this year on party-line votes, which could mean they won’t need any Republican votes at all for Biden’s next signature pieces of legislation.

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2 Democratic Senators are already saying Biden’s infrastructure plan probably needs to change

Joe Manchin
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).

  • Democrats in the Senate are already voicing their concerns with the infrastructure package.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin says he’s concerned about the increase to the corporate tax rate.
  • And Sen. Mark Warner has “already expressed some concerns” and wants more input.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Two Democratic senators have already voiced concerns about President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

One of them is Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia who has already proven himself to be an outsized presence in the razor-thin Democratic majority. He was also a pivotal voice against the inclusion of a $15 minimum wage in the American Rescue Plan.

Now, he’s expressed his concerns with the infrastructure package. In an interview with Talkline, a West Virginia radio show, Manchin said that, “as the bill exists today, it needs to be changed.”

Regarding Biden’s proposed increase of the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, Manchin indicated that he doesn’t support the 28% figure and stressed that the international average is a few percentage points lower. The rate “should have never been under 25%,” he said. “That’s the worldwide average. And that’s what basically every corporation would have told you was fair.”

When asked if he would not support a bill that raises the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, Manchin said: “Well, the bill basically is not going to end up that way”

Manchin also said the bill wouldn’t be passed by reconciliation “unless we vote to get on it.” When radio host Hoppy Kercheval said “they” could pass the bill by reconciliation.

“No, they can’t. Not unless we vote to get on it,” Manchin said in response. “And if I don’t vote to get on it, it’s not going anywhere.”

Meanwhile, in a briefing on Monday, Biden said he was “not at all” worried that raising that rate would drive corporations to different countries. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also argued in support of a global minimum tax rate today.

As Politico reports, Manchin isn’t alone: Another Democratic senator, Mark Warner of Virginia, has also expressed concerns.

“I’ve had some outreach from the White House, but it was more heads-up than input into the development of the package,” he said, according to Politico. “So I’ve already expressed some concerns.”

Getting Democrats on board with the infrastructure package will be key to its passage, as Senate Minority Mitch McConnell has already said that it won’t get any GOP votes in the Senate. That means Democrats will likely have to compromise internally amongst themselves,

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Mitch McConnell says the GOP won’t support the infrastructure plan, report says

McConnell Portrait
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the infrastructure package won’t get GOP votes, per Politico.
  • McConnell had already criticized the package, calling it a “missed opportunity.”
  • Lack of GOP support would mean that Democrats may have to use reconciliation to pass it.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said President Joe Biden’s new infrastructure package won’t get any Republican votes in the Senate, Politico reports.

At a Kentucky event, McConnell reportedly criticized the package for the impact it could have on debt, and the accompanying proposal to hike taxes on corporations.

“That package that they’re putting together now, as much as we would like to address infrastructure, is not going to get support from our side,” McConnell said, per Politico. “Because I think the last thing the economy needs right now is a big, whopping tax increase.”

McConnell already released a statement slamming the package, calling it a “Trojan horse” for tax hikes.

“Our nation could use a serious, targeted infrastructure plan,” he said. “There would be bipartisan support for a smart proposal. Unfortunately, the latest liberal wish list the White House has decided to label ‘infrastructure’ is a major missed opportunity by this Administration.”

When reached for comment, McConnell’s team directed Insider to a series of statements from Senate Republicans as well as his prior statement.

Setting the stage for more reconciliation

If no GOP members vote for the bill – as happened with the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan – Democrats may have to try to pass it via party-line reconciliation yet again. That could get thorny, as moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin has said he wants any infrastructure package to be bipartisan and not passed via reconciliation – yet he wanted it to include tax hikes.

Democrats are also limited in how many times they can use reconciliation to pass bills ina given fiscal year, but that may be more flexible than previously assumed.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has been looking into a potential loophole that would trigger multiple reconciliation bills in a given year, leaving Democrats with potentially multiple opportunities to pass one. And this week’s infrastructure package will be followed by another in mid-April, and Republicans’ track record indicates they won’t support that one, either.

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Biden advisors reportedly plan $3 trillion more spending on infrastructure, universal pre-K, climate-change initiatives

Biden
President Joe Biden.

  • Joe Biden’s economic advisors are drafting a proposal to recommend $3 trillion more spending.
  • The New York Times reports the White House could split its colossal infrastructure plan in two.
  • The first part would focus on infrastructure and climate. The second may set up universal pre-K.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Instead of pushing a single colossal spending bill through Congress, President Joe Biden’s advisors are reportedly expected to present a proposal this week that includes $3 trillion in spending aimed at boosting the economy and fighting climate change through separate legislative pieces.

The New York Times first reported that Biden’s economic advisors plan to recommend as much as $3 trillion to narrow economic inequality, reduce carbon emissions, and improve American manufacturing, beginning with an infrastructure bill. They cited people familiar with the plan, along with documents outlining its provisions.

The documents said the proposed package would spend heavily on infrastructure improvements, with nearly $1 trillion in spending alone for roads, bridges, electric vehicles, and more.

The second plan would be people-focused and spend heavily on education and programs to increase the participation of women in the labor force, including free community college, universal pre-K education, and a national paid leave program. Those elements are targeted at encouraging people to reenter the workforce and strengthen the overall economic recovery.

Administration officials said that while details on funding for the package are not yet determined, it might be financed by tax increases on the wealthy. Biden has already indicated that he would include a federal tax hike on high earners in his next big economic package, which would be the first major federal tax hike in nearly three decades.

Insider’s Juliana Kaplan reported Monday that Biden is likely to look at tweaks to the current tax code, instead of a new tax targeting wealth.

But whether Republicans will support one big bill, or a series of legislative pieces, depends largely on funding, and Republican lawmakers have already indicated they will not support a tax hike on the rich.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any enthusiasm on our side for a tax increase,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters last week. The Republican opposition to tax increases could prompt Democrats to bypass the GOP using reconciliation, the same tactic used to enact the $1.9 trillion stimulus law, but passing it more piecemeal could win bipartisan approval for certain aspects of the spending.

Groups of lawmakers from both parties have already met with Biden to discuss an upcoming infrastructure bill.

Democrats, like Rep. Peter DeFazio, the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, suggested using reconciliation in a CNBC interview to pass the next bill, but Rep. Sam Graves, ranking member of the House infrastructure panel, said in a statement that it “cannot be a ‘my way or the highway’ approach like last Congress.”

Moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said in an “Axios on HBO” interview that an infrastructure bill could be as large as $4 trillion if it’s funded by tax hikes but that he would not support reconciliation.

“I’m not going to do it through reconciliation,” Manchin said. “I am not going to get on a bill that cuts them [Republicans] out completely before we start trying.”

The White House did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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Senior Democrat caught on hot mic suggests bypassing Republicans on infrastructure

Ben Cardin
Sen. Ben Cardin.

  • Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin was heard suggesting reconciliation for the upcoming infrastructure bill.
  • He cited likely Republican opposition and said the bill will resemble the $1.9 trillion stimulus.
  • Conservatives and moderates have already complained about the prospect of another reconciliation bill.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A senior Democratic senator, Ben Cardin of Maryland, was overheard in a “hot mic” moment saying the next trillion-dollar spending bill will probably have to bypass Republicans once again.

In a moment caught by C-SPAN on Monday, the chair of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure was overheard telling Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg that Democrats will likely have to use reconciliation to pass an infrastructure bill, Politico first reported.

Democrats recently used reconciliation to pass the $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” which President Joe Biden signed into law on Thursday. The infrastructure bill could carry an even larger price tag, and Cardin said Democrats will “most likely have to use reconciliation” to pass that one, too.

“Ultimately, it’s going to be put together similar,” Cardin told Buttigieg when speaking about the infrastructure bill. “The Republicans will be with you to a point, and then -” he tailed off, suggesting that GOP backing would taper off as Democrats assemble a large bill.

House Democrats officially began working on an infrastructure package on Friday, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying in a statement that she aims to negotiate with Republicans on the legislative details.

She said it was her hope that bipartisanship would “prevail as we address other critical needs in energy and broadband, education and housing, water systems and other priorities.”

President Joe Biden has already held infrastructure talks with bipartisan groups of lawmakers. On February 11, he met with four bipartisan senators on the topic, and in the beginning of March, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers joined the president to discuss possible funding methods.

After the latter meeting with Biden, Sam Graves, ranking member of the House Committee of Transportation and Infrastructure, criticized the prospect of another party-line procedure.

The next bill “cannot be a ‘my way or the highway’ approach like last Congress,” he said, referring to previous Democratic legislation advanced under Pelosi.

“First and foremost, a highway bill cannot grow into a multitrillion-dollar catch-all bill, or it will lose Republican support,” Graves said. “We have to be responsible, and a bill whose cost is not offset will lose Republican support.”

The Biden administration is reportedly weighing tax increases on wealthy Americans and large corporations to finance at least part of its domestic spending plans. Still, some experts say a significant portion of the legislation could be deficit-financed, citing the low cost of federal borrowing and the nature of infrastructure spending as a one-off investment in the economy.

On the Democratic side of the Senate, the influential moderate Joe Manchin of West Virginia said in an “Axios on HBO” interview that Democrats need to work with Republicans on the next big spending bill.

“I’m not going to do it through reconciliation,” Manchin said. “I am not going to get on a bill that cuts them [Republicans] out completely before we start trying.”

Biden has not yet announced specific funding plans for an infrastructure bill, although his campaign platform included a $2 trillion infrastructure proposal. Manchin has said he could support a bill worth up to $4 trillion, as long as it was paid for adequately.

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Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus could drastically cut poverty, studies say

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden.

  • Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus passed the House again today, and is set to be signed into law this week.
  • The legislation could play an enormous role in reducing poverty rates, especially for children.
  • Two separate studies found it could reduce poverty rates by a third, but only over the next year.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden’s historic $1.9 trillion stimulus relief package just passed the House, and is set to be signed into law this week.

The bill will allocate billions towards Americans, providing relief for unemployed workers, parents, and millions more. Many taxpayers are set to receive $1,400 stimulus checks, and parents could receive up to $3,600 per child under the child tax credit.

One area where the stimulus will be acutely felt: poverty rates. Two different studies anticipate that the legislation will have a dramatic effect, projecting that millions of Americans will no longer be living in poverty in 2021. The bill, passed via reconciliation along party lines in both the House and Senate, includes measures that will expire in 2022, meaning that it’s an open question what happens to poverty rates at that point.

A study out of the Center on Poverty & Social Policy at Columbia University found that the package could nearly halve child poverty, and would more than halve the rate for Black and Hispanic children. Broadly, that study projects that the annual poverty rate would fall from 12.3% to 8.2% – meaning it would drop by a third.

Meanwhile, a study from the Urban Institute finds the plan would cut poverty by over a third. That study projects that the annual poverty rate would shrink from 13.7% to 8.7%, with 16 million fewer Americans living in poverty in 2021.

This will also impact some of those who have been hardest hit by the pandemic. Poverty rates will drop by half for those in households who experienced job losses during the pandemic, compared to a nearly one-third drop for households who did not lose jobs during the pandemic. As Insider’s Ben Winck previously reported, low-wage, minority workers were the hardest hit by pandemic unemployment.

The share of Americans in deep poverty – defined as those with resources that are less than half of the poverty threshold – would also drop by a third.

The legislation will help address some racial disparities. Historically, poverty rates have been higher for Black and Hispanic Americans. With the American Rescue Plan, it would fall 42% for Black Americans, 39% for Hispanic Americans and 34% for white Americans.

Those drops aren’t unexpected. Throughout America’s pandemic year, poverty has fallen with each new stimulus package and increased unemployment benefits, according to research from economists at University of Chicago, University of Notre Dame, and Zhejiang University.

In a statement on the bill’s passage, Biden highlighted how it will reduce child poverty, and added: “This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation – the essential workers, the working people who built this country, the people who keep this country going – a fighting chance.”

There is that one catch, though: What happens to poverty rates after the stimulus money runs out?

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Republicans move to drag out debate on the Biden $1.9 trillion stimulus to slow down its passage

Ron Johson
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).

  • Republicans sought to drag out the proceedings on the Democratic stimulus bill on Thursday.
  • Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin forced a reading of the 628-page relief legislation on the Senate floor.
  • Democrats brushed aside the reading as a political stunt, and aim to pass the bill sometime this week.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Senate voted along party lines to kick off debate on the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan on Thursday afternoon. 

But Republicans appear intent on dragging out the proceedings to make it as painful as possible on Democrats advancing the measure without GOP support.

The protracted debate could mean Senate passage of the bill could slip sometime into the weekend. Democrats are racing to enact the bill before a March 14 deadline when enhanced unemployment insurance will expire.

Shortly after the vote, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin objected to a motion that would dispense with a reading of the legislation. The move set up a reading of the 628-page bill by Senate clerks, which could take several hours.

“If they’re going to add nearly $2T to the national debt at least we should know what’s in the bill,” the Wisconsin senator wrote in a tweet. 

For at least two hours on Thursday afternoon, Johnson was present in the Senate chamber. He occasionally took notes on a legal pad as clerks read the relief legislation aloud.

The reading was the first step in an apparent GOP bid to slow down passage of the Democratic rescue plan. Democrats are employing a tactic called reconciliation to bypass Republicans and approve the legislation with a simple majority of 51 votes.

Democrats brushed the reading aside, arguing that it amounted to little more than a political stunt.

“We all know this will merely delay the inevitable,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday. “It will accomplish little more than a few sore throats for the Senate clerks, who work very hard, day-in, day-out, to help the Senate function.”

Republicans have been staunchly opposed to the measure, contending the bill costs too much and they had little input into its design.

 “The real tragedy here is not Senate process,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday. “It’s how ill-suited this bill is to what Americans need right now.”

Once the Senate clerks wrap up with the reading, the chamber is expected to start 20 hours of debate. When that concludes, a “vote-a-rama” will get under way.

Republicans are preparing to offer hundreds of amendments to the relief bill. Some of these may deal with the $350 billion in state and local funding, and a push to scale back unemployment benefits. Democrats and Republicans will vote on many of them, but likely not all.

“Historically what’s happened is… we offer a couple of hundred amendments on the Republican side,” Johnson told reporters today. “And we get a couple of dozen voted on and people tire out. I’m coming up with a process that keeps people from tiring out. I’m getting sign ups. I’m laying out a three-shift schedule.”

“I think it’s important for the American people and our Democratic colleagues to recognize that when they’re going to propose spending money that’s not needed and that’s wasteful,” Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah told reporters on Thursday. “And they lard up a piece of legislation that we’re not going to just sit back and take it that we’re going to fight back.”

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Sen. Joe Manchin on ending the filibuster: ‘Jesus Christ, what don’t you understand about ‘never’?’

GettyImages 1231334604
Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) arrives for the Senate Impeachment trials at the Capitol on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.

  • US Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, said Monday he will “never” change his mind on the filibuster.
  • The filibuster means that 60 votes are needed to pass most legislation in the Senate.
  • “Jesus Christ, what don’t you understand about ‘never’?” Manchin said.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

In a democracy, 50% plus one equals a governing majority. 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.

And that, Sen. Joe Manchin said on Monday, will “never” change so long as he’s around.

Democrats, in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, are eager to utilize their trifecta to deliver memorable reforms ahead of the next mid-term elections, which have historically seen the ruling party suffer setbacks.

Some of it can be done the 50 plus one way: the $1.9 trillion stimulus package on track to be passed this week includes $1,400 checks, a $400 per week boost in unemployment, and billions in aid for state and local governments. But a ruling by the Senate’s parliamentarian means it will not include a hike in the minimum wage – and Republican support for $15 an hour by 2025 does not appear to be in the offing.

But, as critics are quick to note, there is nothing in the US Constitution that demands that a Senate majority’s legislation be stymied in perpetuity by a filibuster (and the need to get 60 votes to end debate). Indeed, that simple Senate majority could elect to just do away with what is just a tradition, not a law.

Manchin, the senator from West Virginia, is one of two Democrats standing in the way of that (the other is Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema). And he’s not going to change his mind.

“Never!” he shouted at a journalist who asked if setbacks to the Democratic agenda might lead him to reconsider, per a pool report filed Monday night by Bloomberg News’ Erik Wasson. “Jesus Christ, what don’t you understand about ‘never’?”

If Manchin’s party is unable to move forward with other big-ticket items, however, expect rank-and-file Democrats and members of the press to keep asking him the question.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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House Democrats gear up for Friday vote on the $1.9 trillion Biden stimulus package

Nancy Pelosi House Democrats
Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders.

  • House Democrats have scheduled a final floor vote for Friday.
  • Republicans strongly oppose the plan, arguing it contains a litany of progressive priorities.
  • Senate Democrats are awaiting a ruling that would determine whether a $15 minimum wage can be included in the final package.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

House Democrats on Wednesday were setting the stage for a floor vote on Friday, as their Senate counterparts waited for a key ruling that would determine whether a $15 minimum wage could be included in the stimulus package.

In a press call, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Democrats aimed to “pass a final bill and send it to the president by the 12th of March.”

That deadline would be two days before enhanced unemployment insurance programs start ending for many jobless Americans, including a $300 weekly federal supplement. Democrats have continued trying to gather support for the plan.

“Right now, it’s more important than ever that we do everything that we can to crush the virus, rebuilding our economy for working people and families that need the support to get back on their feet,” Rep. Pete Aguilar told reporters.

Republicans are strongly opposed to the Democratic plan, arguing it contains a litany of progressive priorities.

“They’re gonna try to muscle it through on a totally partisan basis,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday. “It also includes a number of things that have absolutely nothing to do with COVID.”

The floor vote would send the legislation to the Senate, which is expected to take it up next week. The House bill includes $1,400 stimulus checks, $400 federal unemployment benefits, and aid to state and local governments.

It also includes a gradual increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour – a measure that has been a lightning rod of criticism among Republicans and several Democrats. 

Democrats are employing a tactic known as reconciliation to shield the package from a filibuster. It only needs a simple majority of 51 votes to get through the Senate, instead of the usual 60.

But reconciliation has strict budgetary rules, including a set of requirements that every element has a substantial impact on federal spending, the debt, and revenue over 10 years. The Senate parliamentarian governing the process will decide whether the minimum wage boost complies with those guidelines.

Democrats and Republicans made their cases to the parliamentarian early on Tuesday morning. A ruling on the wage bump could come later on Wednesday or early Thursday.

Still, some Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia are opposed, complicating the bill’s path to final approval. He has said he would push for an increase to $11 an hour instead. A ruling that the wage increase complies with the rules of reconciliation may set off another furious round of negotiations on a middle ground.

“I’m an optimist,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois told reporters. “I think even though several Democrats have some concerns that we can still find a basis for agreement.”

The Biden administration has pressed for a $15 minimum wage in the package. But White House officials have said that Senate Democrats will be in charge of striking a possible deal on a smaller wage increase.

“The compromise will be between members of the Senate who may have disagreement on where the minimum wage should sit or what the process should be,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday.

Democrats on Wednesday also struggled to confirm Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick to head the Office of Management and Budget. Two committee votes on her nomination were cancelled earlier in the day, sowing further doubt about whether she can get enough votes in the Senate to be confirmed.

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