Tag Archives: Biden

Nearly $1.9 trillion allocated- By 50-49 votes the United States Senate passes the #AmericanRescuePlan

Senate Democrats passed their version of the near- $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act Saturday afternoon, but not before making some major changes from the version of the bill passed by the House of Representative last week.

Some of the most notable changes between the two relief bills include dropping a provision to gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour and reducing the number of people who will qualify for a $1,400 stimulus payment

The value of federal enhanced unemployment insurance (UI) benefits were also changed to appease moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who threatened not to support the bill. Just as in the House, no Republican lawmakers voted in favor of the legislation, saying it was unnecessary.

“This isn’t a pandemic rescue package,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-K.Y, said on Friday. “It’s a parade of left-wing pet projects that they are ramming through during a pandemic.”

The bill keeps many of the progressive provisions from the House’s version, and added a provision to make student loan forgiveness passed between Dec 31, 2020 and Jan 1, 2026 tax-free.

“Covid has affected nearly every aspect of life,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Saturday. “The American Rescue Plan will deliver more help to more people than anything the federal government’s done in decades.”
Here are some of the major changes between the House and Senate versions of the bill that may affect your pocketbook.

Minimum wage

As expected, the provision to gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour was stripped from the Senate’s bill after the parliamentarian, a nonpartisan official who decides which bills qualify to pass the upper chamber via reconciliation, determined last week that the provision did not meet the standards legislation must meet to pass with a simple majority.

It’s not clear it would have been included anyway: Seven Democratic senators and Angus King, the independent from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats, voted against an amendment proposed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, also an independent, to increase the minimum wage.

Stimulus payments

The bill provides funding for a third economic impact payment, worth up to $1,400 per individual and dependent.

Individuals earning an adjusted gross income (AGI) up to $75,000 (and married couples earning up to $150,000) are eligible for the the full $1,400 each, plus $1,400 for each dependent. In the Senate version, the payments phase out much more quickly than in the House version: No individual with an AGI over $80,000 or couples earning over $160,000 will receive one. Heads of household earning up to $112,500 will receive the full amount, and it will phase out completely at $120,000 for those filers.

In the previous version of the bill, the payments phased out completely at $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for couples. An estimated 12 million fewer adults will now qualify for a stimulus payment, compared to previous rounds.

Many Americans were upset by the move to lower the top income eligibility threshold, calling it a “slap in the face” to middle class Americans who were counting on the money and no longer qualify.

The payments are based on either 2019 or 2020 income, depending on when a taxpayer files their 2020 tax return.

Unlike previous stimulus payments, adult dependents, including college students, disabled adults and elderly Americans, may qualify for a $1,400 payment.

Student loans

The Senate’s bill includes a provision to make any student loan forgiveness passed between Dec 31, 2020 and Jan 1, 2026 tax-free. Usually, forgiven debt is treated as taxable income.

The Senate’s bill does not include student debt forgiveness directly, but it would make it easier for President Joe Biden to forgive $10,000 in student debt, as he has said he wants to, by executive action, if Congress does not do it.

Unemployment insurance

The Senate’s bill will extend the federal jobless benefit supplement at $300 per week through Sept. 6, and make the first $10,200 in UI received in 2020 non-taxable for households with incomes under $150,000.

That differs from the House bill, which extended jobless programs through Aug. 29 and gave an extra $400 per week in benefits. It did not include the provision to make any of the benefits non-taxable.

The House will now have to sign off of the changes before the bill can be signed by the president.

A light of “hope” for Democrats – #CovidReliefBill

Senate Democrats are moving ahead with an updated version of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that includes several tweaks intended to satisfy some moderates ahead of an expected final vote in the coming days.

The Senate voted 51-50 along party lines to advance the bill on Thursday. Vice President Harris voted with all Democrats to break the tie and move ahead with the lengthy debate and amendment process.

The new version of the bill includes more money for rural hospitals, more generous access to federal programs for live venue operators, a tax benefit for student-loan borrowers and changes to the $350 billion pot of state and local relief money. The changes come a day after party leaders agreed to narrow the income eligibility for receiving the latest round of $1,400 stimulus checks, at the request of moderate Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., spent the past several days negotiating with senators to balance changes demanded by moderates with tweaks that satisfy others in the Democratic Party. Republicans are not expected to vote for the bill, meaning Democrats will need unanimous support to pass one of the largest spending bills in history.”We are not going to repeat the mistakes of the past,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “We are not going to be timid in the face of a great challenge. We are not going to delay when urgent action is called for.”

The latest update would make all coronavirus-related student-loan relief tax-free, increase COBRA health care coverage for those who lose jobs in the pandemic from 85% to 100% and provide $10 billion in additional infrastructure funding for state, local and tribal governments.

Another significant change sought by Democrats and many Republicans was limitations on how the $350 billion state and local relief fund could be spent. The new version of the bill requires that funds be used by the end of 2024 and only to respond to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19 “or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality.”

The new limits go on to specify that the fund can be used to provide government services “to the extent of the reduction in revenue” from the pandemic and can be used for “necessary investments” in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure

Progressives have been disappointed by changes to the House-passed legislation that they say make the bill less effective in providing economic relief to the people hardest hit in the pandemic. First, Democrats were forced to eliminate a provision to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024 after the nonpartisan Senate parliamentarian decided the policy would have violated Senate budget rules.

They were further frustrated by the decision to cap stimulus payments at lower income levels than those that had passed the House. Senate leaders and the White House agreed to demands from centrist Democrats that the payments be focused on lower- and middle-income families.

Under the Senate bill, individuals earning $75,000 or less and couples earning $150,000 or less per year would still receive the full $1,400 payment. But the payments would cut off for individuals earning $80,000 or more and couples earning over $160,000, a significant decrease from the House figures.

Many House progressives, particularly those who represent cities with higher costs of living, argue the lower thresholds penalize single parents in particular because often they must earn much more in order to support their families.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the vast majority of people who received payments in December would still receive payments under the new agreement.

“Under the Senate version of the bill, 158.5 million households are going receive direct payments,” Psaki said. “That’s 98% of the households who received them in December.

[Full Story] Did Biden Just Called Abbott a Neanderthal?

President Joe Biden on Wednesday slammed states that repealed Covid-19 restrictions on businesses and rescinded mask mandates for residents, calling the moves a “big mistake.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, both republicans announced Tuesday they would allow buisness to reopen at 100% capacity and lift mask mandates. Biden’s remarks were in response to shouted questions from the press specifically about the two states.

“Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now these masks make a difference,” Biden told reporters at the White House. “We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms… The last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking, that, ‘In the meantime, everything’s fine. Take off your mask. Forget it.’ It still matters.”

He added that it is “critical, critical, critical” that state officials “follow the science” and encourage Americans to continue to wear masks and follow all public health guidelines.

“I know you all know that,” Biden told reporters. “I wish the heck some of our elected officials would.”

In response to Biden’s remarks, Reeves tweeted that “Mississippians don’t need handlers. As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them.”

In announcing their decisions, Reeves and Abbott both cited the declining number of new Covid-19 cases and the increasing availability of vaccines as reasons for ending the restrictions. But federal officials have been warning that the decline in new cases appears to be stalling out and that the emergence of new coronavirus variants could lead to a resurgence.

“It is clear from the recoveries, the vaccinations, the reduced hospitalizations, and the safe practices that Texans are using, that state mandates are no longer needed,” Renae Eze, Abbott’s press secretary, said in a statement to CNBC. “We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans. The Governor’s focus has been, and always will be, protecting the lives and livelihoods of Texans.”

She added that Texas have “the tools and knowledge to combat” Covid-19 and can make their own decisions. Eze said the “Governor was clear in telling Texans that COVID hasn’t ended, and that all Texans should follow medical advice and safe practices” during the pandemic.

Both governors struck a similar tone in making their announcements Tuesday, saying that people should still follow public health guidance, but that statewide mandates are not appropriate. Despite the rollback of the restrictions some businesses in both states have said they will still require masking in their stores.

On Monday, before the two governors made their announcements, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned state officials against lifting public health restrictions too quickly.

Over the past seven days, the U.S. reported an average of more than 65,400 daily new cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That’s far below the peak of about 250,000 new cases every day that the country was reporting in early January, but it’s still well above the rate of infection the U.S. saw over the summer when the virus swept across the Sun Belt.

“At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” Walensky said Monday. “With these statistics, I am really worried about more states rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from Covid-19.”

“Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” she said.