Politics On The Money: COVID-19 relief debate stalls in Senate amid Democratic drama | Manchin holds up bill over jobless benefits | US adds 379K jobs in February
How Dems Can Turn Filibuster Reform Into the ‘Moderate’ Option
The imperative to pass a new voting rights act – and renew Biden’s child allowance – could erode moderate resistance to weakening the filibuster.But once reconciliation is done, acrimony may follow.
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Senate Democrats announce deal on unemployment insurance, allowing Biden bill to move forward
The Senate will debate and vote on amendments to the proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus starting Friday, a process that is expected to bring fiery exchanges but ultimate passage of President Biden's top legislative priority.The agreement would extend the existing $300 weekly unemployment benefit through Sept. 6, as well as provide tax relief on benefits for households making under $150,000.
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THE BIG DEAL-COVID-19 relief debate stalls in Senate amid Democratic drama: This was supposed to be the easy part, but Democratic drama over unemployment benefits is snagging the Senate's coronavirus relief debate.
'No idea what he's doing': Manchin perplexes with Covid aid power play
It took a direct call from President Biden and significant concessions to get the senator on board.The voluble West Virginian was talking with his colleagues, but even after Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) implored him to move forward on a compromise approach to President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid aid bill, she and Tester weren’t getting anywhere with Manchin. Tester didn’t understand quite where Manchin was coming from as he resisted what Democratic leaders had already marketed as a popular compromise.
What's going on: The Senate has been stuck in a state of limbo for hours as senators try to figure out the path forward on 10 weekly unemployment payments.Senators have filed two competing unemployment proposals:
- One, from Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would provide $300 per week through mid-July, a significantly shorter timeline than what's supported by most Democrats.
- The second, from Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), would provide a $300 weekly payment through September and exempt from federal taxes
Both are changes from the House bill, which provided $400 per week through August, but Democrats unveiled the agreement earlier Friday worked out by their moderate and progressive factions. Hours later, in the middle of on raising the minimum wage, it became clear they were premature. The Hill's Jordain Carney .
The last minute federal unemployment insurance compromise, briefly explained
Joe Manchin singlehandedly pared back federal unemployment benefits in the new Covid relief package.Under the new plan, expanded federal unemployment benefits, which supplement state unemployment payments and are set to expire in mid-March — would be renewed at $300 per week through the first week of September. The first $10,200 of benefits will also be non-taxable under a $150,000 income threshold.
All eyes on Joe Manchin: In order for Democrats to attach their proposal to the coronavirus bill, they would need the support of all 50 members of their caucus and Vice President Harris to break a tie. But in a significant snag, Portman told reporters that he believes he can get the support of all 50 senators and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to vote for his proposal.
"I think so," Portman said, asked if he has the entire GOP caucus and Manchin.
Manchin has declined to talk to reporters about the state of negotiations, but President Biden has reportedly been on the phone with him a few times in search of a deal.
Read more about the relief bill:
- The eight Democrats ' on $15 minimum wage
- Senate Democrats' proposed coronavirus relief package would student loan forgiveness from 2021 through 2025.
LEADING THE DAY
Economists warn positive jobs report obscures challenges ahead: A surprising February jobs gain and drop in the unemployment rate is obscuring the long road to a full recovery from the coronavirus recession, economists say.
Senate Nears Saturday Passage After All-Nighter: Stimulus Update
The Senate is on track to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill as early as midday Saturday after a compromise reduced added unemployment benefits to $300 a week, one of several ways moderate Democrats shaped the bill to be less generous than the House version. Democrats also fought off a raft of Republican amendments to cut state and local funding, redirect Amtrak funding, end aid to indebted minority farmers, and stop grants for non-profit entities. The amendment process began after 11 a.m. on Friday.But the chamber voted to include the deal Democrats reached within their own ranks to extend until Sept.
The U.S. jobs last month, more than double what analysts had expected, and saw the jobless rate drop to 6.2 percent, the lowest level since March 2020.
But while the February employment report showed signs of an accelerating recovery, the job gains were just a drop in the bucket compared to the deep damage built up within the labor market over the past year. The deceptively low unemployment rate also ignores the millions of Americans who've been forced out of the labor force by COVID-19 and its disproportionate toll on women of color. .
Sen. Joe Manchin open to party-line vote on future bills with voting rights legislation now in focus
The Senate's Covid relief bill lowered enhanced federal unemployment benefits to $300 per week and excludes a plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.Manchin's comments come as the Biden administration and Democratic lawmakers look toward other top priorities, including voting rights legislation, after they passed a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill without any Republican support in the evenly divided Senate this weekend.
The state of play:
- February's employment gains were an undeniable improvement from January's meager increase of 49,000 and included signs of businesses gearing up for a post-pandemic economy.
- The hard-hit leisure and hospitality sector added 355,000 jobs, predominantly at restaurants and bars long hindered by coronavirus restrictions.
- Even so, the U.S. on whole is still down roughly 9.5 million jobs from the start of the pandemic, a gulf that would take more than two years to fill at February's pace.
Why the unemployment rate seems low anyway: The unique toll of the pandemic has also rendered the unemployment rate nearly useless for gauging the health of the labor market.
Joe Manchin Opens Door to Making Filibuster 'More Painful' to Use Amid Calls to End It
"There's things we can talk about," the West Virginia Democrat said, suggesting modifications could be made to the Senate's contentious legislative rule.Manchin, a moderate, has repeatedly pushed back against calls to end the filibuster, which many Democrats believe is the only way to achieve President Joe Biden's policy agenda.
- More than 4 million Americans have stopped looking for work due to the pandemic, according to the February jobs report.
- Many have exited the workforce to look after school-age children, take care of sick family members, or avoid contracting the virus.
- Since the jobless rate doesn't include those not seeking employment, many Americans who would otherwise like to work are not represented in that headline figure.
Top White House officials took little solace in the better-than-expected February jobs report, insisting that the U.S. was far from a full and equitable recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
ON TAP NEXT WEEK
- The Senate Banking Committee on the GameStop frenzy and retail investing at 10 a.m.
- The House Financial Services Committee on racial equity in housing and financial services at 10 a.m.
- The House Small Business Committee on the future of the Paycheck Protection Program at 10 a.m.
- The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Shalanda Young's nomination to be deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget at 9:45 a.m.
- The House Agriculture Committee on food insecurity at 9 a.m.
- A House Ways and Means subcommittee on tax policy and local governments at 2 p.m.
GOOD TO KNOW
- The U.S. and European Union have agreed to relating to a long-standing trade dispute for four months, following a similar deal announced Thursday between the U.S. and U.K.
- A of the biggest tech companies, Columbia University Law School professor Tim Wu, is joining the Biden administration in a role focused on addressing the market power of the tech giants.
Joe Manchin Thinks All Republican Senators Want Minimum Wage Rise .
The West Virginia Democrat has spoken of his desires to work in a bipartisan manner, and his own preference for a minimum wage rise but below the $15 an hour mark.Democrats had moved to lift the federal minimum wage to that mark through reconciliation along with COVID-19 relief, though the Senate parliamentarian ruled it should not be passed through the upper chamber in that way.