Senate Democrats Still Debating Key Elements of Covid Rescue Plan

Senate Democrats Still Debating Key Elements of Covid Rescue Plan

Sipa USA

Democrats remain divided over some elements of the $1.9 trillion Covid relief plan, with centrists including Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire looking to cut back enhanced unemployment benefits in the proposal.

Politico reports:

“Some moderate Democrats are calling for more narrow targeting of the aid bill's unemployment benefits and stimulus checks, including cutting the weekly federal benefits the bill would add from $400 to $300 — while extending that money over a longer period of time. That debate is taking place roughly 24 hours before party leaders want the bill on the floor.”

Manchin told reporters he’s concerned that the increased benefits may give workers incentive to stay away from their jobs. “We want people to get back to work,” he said, according to Bloomberg News. 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.”

Other Democrats are reportedly pushing back on the proposed changes, and President Biden on Tuesday urged Democrats to stick together and pass the relief package, telling senators that they may have to accept some provisions they don’t like — though he reportedly is leaving it to the lawmakers to iron out their differences over policy details.

“One solution to the argument over unemployment benefits could be to extend the length of time for benefits using money saved by reducing the weekly benefit supplement,” Bloomberg’s Erik Wasson, Steven T. Dennis and Laura Litvan report.

Other issues reportedly being discussed include income thresholds for those receiving $1,400 direct payments, the proper amount of aid for state and local governments and the idea of repurposing some of the proposed state aid toward broadband investments.

“My guess is it’s probably going to change, but pretty modestly. That’d be my guess,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) said Monday evening, according to Politico. And Sen. Angus King (I-ME) said Monday that the overall size of the package isn’t being disputed much: “The question is whether it can be targeted in such a way as to better serve the people who need the most and perhaps free up funds for other priorities.”