Risk & Compliance

Senate to Begin Deliberations on Latest COVID-19 Relief Bill

The $1.9 trillion relief bill was passed by the House over the weekend.

The U.S. Senate this week will begin considering the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed by the House over the weekend.

What Happened: The House of Representatives voted early Saturday morning to approve President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. It was the first major legislative initiative for the President.

The Democratic-controlled House voted 219 to 212 to approve the bill. Two Democrats, Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Jared Golden of Maine, voted with the Republicans. No Republicans voted for it.

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The stimulus bill includes:

  • Direct aid to small businesses
  • $1,400 direct checks to Americans making less than $75,000 annually
  • A $400-a-week federal unemployment bonus
  • A per-child child tax credit expansion of up to $3,600 for one year
  • $20 billion for vaccine distribution
  • $50 billion for testing and tracing efforts
  • $350 billion in state, local and tribal government relief
  • $25 billion for assistance for covering rent payments
  • $170 billion for K-12 schools and higher education institutions

What’s Next: Democrats hope to see President Joe Biden’s signature on a final bill before March 14, when unemployment benefits expire. 

But the Senate process will not be smooth. One complication will be the proposed minimum wage hike, from $7.25 to $15 per hour, included in the House bill. The House used a process known as budget reconciliation to pass its version of the bill because doing so then allows the bill to be passed in the Senate by a simple majority. Democrats have the tie-breaking vote in Vice President Kamala Harris in the 50-50 split Senate.

However, the Senate parliamentarian, who weighs in on the nuances of complex chamber procedure, last Thursday ruled that the bill could not include the wage hike if reconciliation was used to pass it, as the House then went on to do.

The Senate will have to unravel this before a final congressional vote on the bill takes place and the bill heads to Biden’s desk.

The size of the bill also has come under question over concerns that it could essentially work too well and overheat the economy, thereby driving up inflation. Republicans have pushed for a smaller price tag.

The relief bill is the first major piece of legislation Democrats have undertaken since Biden came into office. It serves as a test of whether Washington is headed in a more cooperative direction — a crucial question for Biden’s next expected major piece of legislation: an infrastructure and clean energy proposal that could be as high as $2 trillion.

This story originally appeared on Benzinga. © 2021 Benzinga.com.

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