Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 billion stimulus bill hits Senate hurdle

Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 billion stimulus bill passed a big hurdle in the US Senate on Friday after centrist Democratic senator Joe Manchin struck a deal with party leaders on extending benefits unemployment in the legislation.

Manchin’s opposition to a previous proposal on emergency unemployment assistance had for hours blocked progress towards approval Biden’s plan Friday in the upper house of Congress, in a worrying development for the White House and Democratic leaders.

But the deal will pave the way for the Senate’s continued consideration of the stimulus package on Friday night and over the weekend, providing new legislative momentum for Biden’s top priority since he entered the White House in January. .

Under the terms of the agreement imposed by Manchin, the top-up to unemployment benefits linked to the pandemic would be extended until September 6 with payments of $ 300 per week, a Democratic aide said. It also exempts the first $ 10,200 of jobless benefits from taxes for households with annual income less than $ 150,000.

“The president has made it clear that we will have enough vaccines for every American by the end of May and I am confident that economic recovery will follow,” Manchin said in a statement. “We have reached a compromise that allows the economy to rebound quickly while protecting unemployment benefit recipients from an unexpected tax bill next year,” he added.

Manchin’s opposition to previous wording on unemployment benefits – which would have extended benefits until October – had blinded Democratic leaders and the White House, forcing them to enter into negotiations to satisfy the recalcitrant lawmaker in West Virginia. At one point, some Democrats feared Manchin might back a rival amendment pushed by Republican senators led by Rob Portman of Ohio, who would seek to end unemployment benefits in July.

But the reduction in unemployment benefits imposed by Manchin could prove problematic for the fate of Biden’s bill once it returns to the House of Representatives, where Democrats hold a slim majority and cannot afford more than ‘a handful of defections among progressive lawmakers. The House passed its own version of Biden’s stimulus last Saturday, and it included $ 400 a week in benefits until the end of August.

The need to maintain emergency unemployment benefits after they expire on March 14 has been one of the main catalysts for demand for additional stimulus from Biden, which wants to offer protection to millions of Americans who remain out of work in reason Coronavirus pandemic.

Unemployment benefit changes mark second big change to the stimulus bill this week, after Democratic senators agreed restricted eligibility for direct payments of $ 1,400 from the plan.

The upper house is also split between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, and Kamala Harris, the vice president, throws everything decisive votes.

The strain on unemployment benefits has been hit as US Department data has shown job growth rebounds out of its winter doldrums but still far from pre-pandemic levels, prompting Democrats to point out the need for more stimulus as Republicans said the economy would recover without it.

“The February jobs report shows progress, but much more is needed to deal with the daily reality of unemployment and financial insecurity faced by millions of Americans,” Nancy Pelosi said Friday, the Speaker of the House of Democrats.

Even though opinion polls show a large majority of Americans backing the stimulus, Republican lawmakers have mounted united opposition to the legislation, saying the aid is not sufficiently targeted to those who have it most. need and the overall price is excessive.

“[Democrats] are determined to fight their way into an ideological spending spree filled with non-Covid policies, ”said Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, on Friday morning.

Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, responded to Republican criticism on Twitter: “If you think today’s jobs report is ‘good enough’, then take notice at this rate. . . we would have to wait until April 2023 to return to where we were in February 2020. ”

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