Official: Dems OK tighter income limits for COVID-19 relief

President Joe Biden and Democrats agreed Wednesday to tighten the upper-income limits at which people could qualify for stimulus checks, a Democratic official said, a major concession to moderates as party leaders prepared to move their $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill through the Senate.

Posted: Mar 3, 2021 12:43 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden and Democrats agreed Wednesday to tighten the upper-income limits at which people could qualify for stimulus checks, a Democratic official said, a major concession to moderates as party leaders prepared to move their $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill through the Senate.

The COVID-19 relief measure Senate Democrats planned to unveil will also retain the $400 weekly emergency jobless benefits that were included in a House-approved version of the legislation, the official said. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal Democratic conversations.

The changes came with Republicans, who may unanimously oppose the legislation, lashing the bill as an overpriced Democratic wish list that lavishes help on many who don’t really need it.

In a 50-50 Senate where Democrats must remain united, party moderates have been pushing to refocus the bill’s spending more closely on those must hurt by the pandemic and resulting economic slowdown.

As part of Democrats’ legislative thrust on what is Biden’s top initial legislative priority, individuals earning up to $75,000 — and couples up to $150,000 — would get $1,400 checks per person.

The version the House approved last Saturday would gradually phase down those amounts and reach zero for individuals making $100,000 and couples earning $200,000.

But under Wednesday’s agreement, those checks would end for individuals making $80,000 and couples earning $160,000, the official said.

But Biden and party leaders stood firm and will retain the $400 weekly emergency jobless benefits, which are paid on top of regular state payments. Moderates have wanted to trim those payments to $300 per week, with some saying the higher amount could discourage people from returning to their jobs.

On Tuesday, Biden took to Twitter to signal he wouldn’t budge from his demand that lawmakers add a fresh $1,400 payment to the $600 that millions of individuals received from a December relief measure. That new installment comprises nearly a quarter of the overall bill’s cost.

“The fact is that $600 is not enough. The Senate needs to pass the American Rescue Plan and finish the job of delivering $2,000 in direct relief,” Biden wrote in one of his infrequent uses of a medium his predecessor, Donald Trump, at times used over 100 times daily.

The huge relief package is a too-big-to-fail moment for the fledging president, who would be politically staggered if Congress — controlled narrowly by Democrats but controlled nonetheless — failed to deliver. Conquering the virus that’s killed half a million Americans and flung the economy and countless lives into tailspins is Biden’s top initial priority.

So far, Republicans are following the template they set during Barack Obama’s presidency. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he hoped GOP senators would oppose the bill unanimously, as their House counterparts did early Saturday when that chamber approved its version of the measure.

“The new administration made a conscious effort to jam us,” McConnell told reporters. “We’ll be fighting this in every way that we can.”

Democrats are using special rules that will let them avoid GOP filibusters that would require them to garner an impossible 60 votes to approve the legislation.

The Senate bill was expected to largely mirror the House-approved package, with the most glaring divergence the Senate’s dropping of language boosting the federal minimum wage to $15 hourly.

Schumer said Senate debate would commence as soon as Wednesday and predicted, “We’ll have the votes we need to pass the bill.” Democrats want to send a final package to Biden by March 14, when an earlier round of emergency jobless benefits expires.

The bill has hundreds of billions of dollars for schools and colleges, COVID-19 vaccines and testing, mass transit systems, renters and small businesses. It also has money for child care, tax breaks for families with children and assistance for states willing to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income residents.

It was clear there were still moving parts.

Senate Democrats were removing $1.5 million for a bridge between New York state and Canada and around $140 million for a rapid transit project south of San Francisco after Republicans cast both as pet projects for Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D—Calif.

Aides to both Democratic leaders said the projects weren’t new and had been supported by the Trump administration.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said he wants the bill’s $350 billion for state and local governments to specify minimum amounts for municipal governments and has called for $50 billion to improve broadband coverage.

Despite every Democrats’ huge leverage because all their votes are needed, none have so far threatened to sink the legislation if they don’t get their way. All are aware of how that would rattle Biden’s presidency and Democrats’ ability to be productive during this Congress.

“We want to get the biggest, strongest bill that can pass, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Schumer said.

There were indications loose ends were falling into place. In one sign, 11 Democratic senators wrote Biden urging him to use a huge, upcoming infrastructure bill to create regularly paid relief and jobless benefits that would be automatically triggered by economic conditions.

Some progressives had wanted those payments included in the COVID-19 bill. Democrats’ push to include it in later legislation suggested an effort to satisfy progressives while avoiding jeopardizing the current package.

Progressives, though, were still smarting over the virtual certainty that the Senate bill will lack the minimum wage boost, up from $7.25 hourly locked in since 2009.

The chamber’s nonpartisan parliamentarian said last week that including that increase violated Senate budget rules. Opposition by moderates including Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., has left Democrats without the votes needed to salvage it.

A fundraising email by Our Revolution, a progressive political committee that was started by backers of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., underscored the left’s anger. Sanders is chief Senate sponsor of the wage increase.

“The politician standing in the way of change is Vice President Kamala Harris,” said the email, citing the possibility — already rejected by the White House — of her casting a tie-breaking Senate vote to overrule the parliamentarian. It said the organization will “hold her accountable if she decides to turn her back on essential workers.”

___

AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro and AP writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

Terre Haute
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 89°
Robinson
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 82°
Indianapolis
Partly Cloudy
81° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 84°
Rockville
Partly Cloudy
81° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 86°
Casey
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 88°
Brazil
Partly Cloudy
84° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 89°
Marshall
Partly Cloudy
84° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 89°
Showers and storms late this evening.
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1388634

Reported Deaths: 25566
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook55620110461
DuPage923681316
Will769181032
Lake683491014
Kane59419807
Winnebago34106506
Madison30930526
McHenry29182294
St. Clair28316519
Peoria23443342
Champaign21100154
Sangamon19094240
McLean18553187
Tazewell17227305
Rock Island15245329
Kankakee14550217
Kendall1327899
LaSalle12779250
Macon10997211
DeKalb10116121
Vermilion10021142
Adams8677126
Williamson7595134
Whiteside7199174
Boone683677
Ogle620683
Grundy598678
Clinton578991
Coles5770100
Knox5642153
Jackson510065
Henry507870
Livingston489691
Woodford483282
Stephenson481985
Macoupin478288
Effingham476872
Franklin454178
Marion4513117
Jefferson4422122
Monroe438094
Lee419354
Randolph416487
Fulton405159
Logan396964
Morgan393482
Christian383875
Montgomery379474
Bureau378383
Fayette322555
Perry320360
Iroquois313867
McDonough290851
Jersey271652
Douglas260636
Saline260357
Lawrence241127
Shelby232638
Union228141
Crawford214525
Bond208724
Cass203527
Ford188948
Warren184148
Clark183733
Jo Daviess182724
Pike181853
Wayne181053
Hancock180631
Carroll178337
Richland176940
Edgar176740
White170626
Washington164825
Moultrie163128
De Witt157229
Mason154145
Piatt152414
Clay149643
Mercer149334
Johnson147616
Greene145134
Massac135840
Wabash135612
Cumberland130119
Menard125012
Jasper116718
Marshall108119
Hamilton84215
Schuyler7797
Brown7286
Pulaski7007
Stark64824
Edwards57712
Calhoun5302
Henderson52814
Scott4881
Putnam4863
Alexander47411
Gallatin4694
Hardin39112
Pope3284
Out of IL350
Unassigned02433

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 751242

Reported Deaths: 13795
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1032931788
Lake556911009
Allen41692692
St. Joseph36990565
Hamilton36588417
Elkhart29398461
Tippecanoe22901226
Vanderburgh22556400
Porter19356325
Johnson18471389
Hendricks17682317
Clark13226195
Madison13149344
Vigo12614253
LaPorte12419221
Monroe12207176
Delaware10966198
Howard10321225
Kosciusko9630121
Hancock8576146
Bartholomew8169157
Warrick7860156
Floyd7811180
Grant7242179
Wayne7162201
Boone6966103
Morgan6761141
Dubois6218118
Marshall6209116
Cass6016110
Henry5900110
Dearborn589878
Noble581488
Jackson509076
Shelby501496
Lawrence4742122
Gibson444894
Clinton442355
Harrison441875
DeKalb439885
Montgomery438090
Whitley406543
Huntington402681
Steuben400159
Miami395269
Jasper388054
Knox375991
Putnam372960
Wabash361983
Ripley347170
Adams345555
Jefferson335886
White331953
Daviess3033100
Wells295281
Decatur289992
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey273835
LaGrange273072
Scott270156
Clay267148
Washington246036
Randolph244783
Jennings235349
Spencer234531
Starke228058
Fountain220948
Sullivan214643
Owen211858
Fulton202942
Jay200932
Carroll193620
Orange188255
Perry187237
Rush175926
Vermillion174844
Franklin170335
Tipton166246
Parke149416
Pike138234
Blackford136232
Pulaski120647
Newton113936
Brown104243
Crawford102516
Benton101714
Martin91715
Warren84015
Switzerland8148
Union72810
Ohio57911
Unassigned0420