What’s next for $1,400 checks? Senate votes to kick off debate on the stimulus bill

Summer Lin
·4 min read

The Senate voted Thursday to kick off debate on the coronavirus stimulus bill including $1,400 checks after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pledged to pass the deal this week.

The chamber voted 51-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote to begin debate on the legislation.

Schumer, New York Democrat, also said on the Senate floor Thursday that the bill would be passed by the chamber this week, possibly working into the weekend.

“The Senate is going to move forward with the bill. No matter how long it takes, the Senate is going to stay in session to finish the bill this week,” Schumer said, The Hill reported.

The chamber will now kick off up to 20 hours of debate and a marathon of voting on the various pieces and amendments to the bill before approving the legislation. The U.S. House of Representatives will have to either approve the Senate’s plan or meet with the chamber to draft a finalized bill before it can head to Biden’s desk and be signed into law.

The start of the debate will be delayed because Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, requested that the nearly 600-page bill be read aloud on the floor, a process that could take up to 10 hours, Roll Call reported.

“So often we rush these massive bills that are hundreds of thousands of pages long,” Johnson said. “How can you craft effective amendments on a bill that you haven’t even seen or haven’t been given time to read?”

What happens next in the Senate?

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said on Tuesday he expects the plan to be approved by the Senate on Friday or Saturday, CNBC reported. The House is set to reconvene on Monday to pass the Senate version of the bill and Democrats are aiming to send the bill to Biden by the end of next week.

That timeline could get pushed back, however, if huge changes are made in the Senate and a conference committee will need to meet to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate bills, delaying passage of the legislation.

The Senate is also forging ahead through its Thursday session, despite concerns that protests could disrupt the U.S. Capitol on March 4 — the day some QAnon followers falsely believe former President Donald Trump will resume power. House leaders canceled Thursday’s session, moving a vote to Wednesday evening so that lawmakers could leave D.C., The New York Times reported.

The current version of the legislation would send reduced payments to people earning more than $75,000 and $150,000 for joint filers, and cap the payments at earnings of $80,000 and $160,000, respectively, The Associated Press reported. Under the House’s bill, payments would’ve been gradually phased out and cut off for individuals making $100,000 and couples making $200,000.

The House passed the bill mostly along party lines, 219-212, on Saturday. Now, Democrats are expected to use the reconciliation process — which allows for “expedited consideration” of legislation on spending, taxes and debt and only requires a simple majority instead of 60 votes for passage — to advance the bill.

The Senate version of the bill will include changes from Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, a nonpartisan interpreter of chamber rules.

MacDonough ruled last week that the stimulus deal including a federal minimum wage increase to $15 per hour — as passed by the House — can’t be passed in the Senate under reconciliation.

Her ruling means a deal including a minimum wage hike would require 60 votes in the Senate. Reconciliation would have allowed Democrats in the Senate to bypass that 60-vote requirement for advancing the legislation including a minimum wage hike and instead only need a simple majority.

The bill without a minimum wage increase can still pass under reconciliation.

Democrats are looking to pass the package by March 14, when enhanced unemployment benefits included in the December stimulus bill expire.

But Democrats have a narrow 50-50 majority in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tie breaker, meaning the bill will require support from the entire Democratic caucus as no Republicans are expected to support the legislation, The Hill reported. Republicans have balked at the cost of the deal and called for more “targeted” relief for families during the pandemic by lowering the income threshold requirements for direct payments.