The U.S. Senate early Friday morning approved a budget resolution that will allow passage of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus stimulus bill and also agreed that it would restrict high-income taxpayers from claiming the $1,400 direct payments.
Lawmakers worked through the night on a bevy of amendments to the resolution, which will trigger a procedure known as reconciliation and Democrats to pass a $1.9 trillion package by majority vote without the threat of a filibuster. The final vote was cast just after 5:30 a.m.
Adopting several amendments proposed by Republicans would allow President Joe Biden to claim that the stimulus package was bipartisan even if every GOP senator eventually votes no.
On one bipartisan proposal, senators voted, 99-1, in favor of provision that could exclude wealthier households from any payments. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., cast the only no vote.
The amendment does not define “upper income” but in the first stimulus bill, individuals earning $75,000 or less and married couples earning $150,000 or less received the full $1,200, while individuals making up to $99,000 and married couples making up to $198,000 received a smaller check based on income.
“I don’t think a single person on this floor would disagree to target the relief to our neighbors who are struggling,” said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. “There are other families who have not missed a single paycheck as a result of this pandemic. It does not make sense to send a check to those individuals.”
The amendment was proposed by many of the same senators, including Manchin and Maine Republican Susan Collins, who worked together on a stimulus bill that led to the $900 billion measure that became law last December.
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“The question before us is quite simple,” Collins said. “Do we want stimulus checks to go to households with family incomes of $300,000? Or do we want to target the assistance to struggling families who need the help and provide a boost for the economy?”
Collins also was part of a group of 10 Senate Republicans who proposed a $618 billion stimulus bill that President Joe Biden rejected as too small. That measure included $1,000 payments that would cut off at $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for married couples filing jointly.
Senators also passed an amendment offered by U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., to ban unauthorized immigrants from getting stimulus checks by a vote of 58-42. Both of New Jersey’s U.S. senators, Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, voted no.
One proposal that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said would not fly would be to substantially reduce the cost of the bill.
“If there are good-faith amendments from the other side, we look forward to them,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Thursday. “What we cannot do, however, is think small in the face of big problems. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. We cannot do too little. We cannot lock our country into a long and slow recovery.”
Once the Senate completes its work, the House would vote on the amended resolution, and has made plans to do so later Friday. That will allow lawmakers in both houses to begin drafting and debating the $1.9 trillion bill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that the price tag was right.
“We want to save lives and save livelihoods; it’s going to cost some money to do so,” she said. “It is a reasonable plan. It meets the needs. It is not excessive. It is coronavirus‑centric, it is in a timely fashion, and that’s where we have to go.”
But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who used the same parliamentary procedure in 2017 to pass a tax law that the Congressional Budget Office said would increase the deficit by the same $1.9 billion, objected to the size of the stimulus bill.
“There is no doubt that some families are still struggling,” McConnell said Thursday on the Senate floor. “This isn’t finished. But experts agree the remaining damage to our economy does not require another multi trillion-dollar, non-targeted Band-Aid.”
However, S&P Global reported that a $1.9 trillion stimulus “would have the strongest impact on the economy this year,” and the Brookings Institution, a Washington research organization, said a package that high would restore the economy to pre-pandemic levels in the third quarter of the year.