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Wake Up To Politics - March 8, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: All your stimulus package questions, answered.
Wake Up To Politics - March 8, 2021

Good morning! It’s Monday, March 8, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 610 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,338 days away. Today is International Women’s Day.

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All your stimulus package questions, answered

The Senate approved President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill on Saturday, moving the package one step closer to being signed into law. Here are answers to some questions you might have about the legislation:

What’s in the relief package? Some of the topline provisions include:

  • A third round of direct payments for about 280 million Americans. Individuals making up to $75,000 per year and couples earning up to $150,000 per year will be eligible for the full $1,400-per-person payments. Partial benefits will be available for individuals earning between $75,000 and $80,000 annually, and couples earning between $150,000 and $160,000.
  • An extension of $300-a-week enhanced unemployment benefits through September 6.
  • An increase in the Child Tax Credit to send $3,000 per child ages 6 to 17 and 3,600 per child under six to most Americans. The credit would be made payable in periodic installments over the course of a year, although lawmakers are expected to push to make the payments into a permanent child allowance in the future.
  • The largest update to the Affordable Care Act in years, including temporarily expanding the law’s subsidies to purchase health insurance and making them available to people of all incomes for the first time. The package would also boost incentives for states to expand Medicaid, which twelve states have yet to do under the ACA.
  • $350 billion in funding for state, local, and tribal governments.
  • $170 billion in funding for K-12 schools and higher education to pay for improved ventilation, reduced class sizes, and other measures to prepare them for reopening
  • $100 billion in funding for public health measures, including coronavirus testing, contact tracing, and vaccine distribution.

What happened in the Senate this weekend? The package passed in a 50-49 vote, with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed. (Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan was absent due to the death of his father-in-law.) The final vote came after a marathon 27-hour session, in which the chamber considered dozens of amendments in a process known as the “vote-a-rama.” One amendment vote, over a minimum wage increase proposed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, was held open for almost 12 hours, breaking the record for the longest vote in modern Senate history.

The vote was held open as Democrats negotiated a separate provision over unemployment benefits. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, the powerful centrist Democrat, raised a last-minute objection that led the enhanced benefits to be reduced to $300 a week (their current amount) from $400 a week in the House bill. Under the agreement with Manchin, the first $10,200 in benefits were also made nontaxable only to households with incomes below $150,000.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) pushed for last-minute changes to the coronavirus relief package. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

What other changes did the Senate make? The biggest change from the House version was the removal of the $15-an-hour minimum wage increase, which was stripped out after the Senate parliamentarian said it could not be included under the rules of the reconciliation process. (Using the reconciliation process allowed Democrats to fast-track the package and make it immune from the Senate filibuster.) Several infrastructure projects were also removed to comply with reconciliation rules, while a provision was added to make most student loan forgiveness exempt from taxation through 2025.

What happens next? The House will vote on Tuesday to approve the Senate version of the package, and then send it to Biden’s desk. Just as in the Senate, Democrats have little room for error in the House, where the initial bill was passed in a 219-212 vote, with two Democrats defecting. As long as most of the party stays in line for the Tuesday vote, Democrats are on track to have the package approved before their deadline of March 14 — which is when the current enhanced unemployment benefits are set to expire.

How significant is this package? The bill is Biden’s first major legislative initiative, and it is a fairly consequential package in a few different respects. According to a study by the Columbia University Center on Poverty & Social Policy, the package is projected to lift 13.1 million people out of poverty, reducing poverty in America by a third. Through the expansion of the Child Tax Credit and other provisions, 5.7 million of those people will be children, which would reduce more than half of child poverty in the United States.

Beyond those direct economic consequences, the package also represents a major break in political orthodoxy, as Biden ignores the concerns about rising inflation and busting the federal deficit that plagued previous Democratic presidents. “For the president, the plan is more than just a stimulus proposal,” the New York Times wrote. “It is a declaration of his economic policy — one that captures the principle Democrats and liberal economists have espoused over the past decade: that the best way to stoke faster economic growth is from the bottom up.”

The Times noted that the plan offers most of its benefits to low earners and middle-class Americans, with little direct aid going to high earners. In a statement on Saturday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) hailed the package as “the most significant piece of legislation to benefit working families in the modern history of this country.” If it receives final passage in the House, it will be one of the largest stimulus bills ever approved in the United States.

The Rundown

— After two more women accused him of inappropriate conduct (bringing the total to five), Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) is facing growing pressure to step down. The top Democrat in the New York State Senate called on Cuomo to resign “for the good of the state” on Sunday, a sentiment which was echoed by the state Assembly speaker and other powerful New York politicians. “There is no way I resign,” Cuomo said in a Sunday press conference.

— Former President Donald Trump is ratcheting up his war on the Republican Party establishment. The ex-president sent a legal notice to Republican groups demanding that they stop using his name and likeness on fundraising emails and merchandise this weekend, and signaled plans to go to Alaska to campaign against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Former President Donald Trump plans to campaign against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), photographed sitting next to him at a 2017 meeting. (Photo: Mike Theiler/Pool/Getty Images)

— Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) expressed openness to reforming the filibuster in an interview on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Manchin, one of the main defenders of the procedural tool within the Democratic caucus, said he would not back calls to eliminate the filibuster but would be “willing to look at” changes to make it “a little bit more painful.” Possible changes could include requiring senators to speak on the floor of the Senate for the entirety of a filibuster; currently, any bill can be blocked if it doesn’t have the support of 60 senators, without any requirement for filibustering senators to hold the floor in opposition.


All times Eastern.

President Joe Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:50 a.m. Later, at 1 p.m., he will join Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough for a visit to the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where local veterans are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. At 4:20 p.m., Biden will deliver remarks on International Women’s Day at the White House.

During the event, he will sign executive orders to establish the White House Gender Policy Council and to direct the Department of Education to review its regulations relating to sexual violence.

  • Vice President Kamala Harris will join Biden for the President’s Daily Brief and will also deliver remarks at the event on International Women’s Day. At 2:15 p.m., she will deliver remarks virtually to the National League of Cities’ Congressional City Conference.
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks will also join Biden and Harris for the International Women’s Day event, along with Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost and Army Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, two female generals who were recently nominated for elite, four-star commands.
  • First Lady Jill Biden will join Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department’s annual ceremony presenting the International Women of Courage Award at 10 a.m. Then, she will visit a pair of military bases in Washington state to meet with military families. She will visit Joint Base Lewis-McChord at 11:30 a.m. and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island at 2:45 p.m.
  • U.S. public health officials will hold a press briefing at 11 a.m. on the COVID-19 response effort. Participants will include Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the president; Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith and Andy Slavitt, the White House senior advisers for COVID-19 response.
  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press briefing at 11:30 a.m. with the co-chairs of the newly-formed White House Gender Policy Council, Julissa Reynoso and Jennifer Klein. The Senate is not in session.

    The House will convene at 12 p.m. for “morning hour,” when 15 members from each party will be able to speak for one minute each. At 2 p.m., the chamber will move to legislative business, voting on 13 pieces of legislation under “suspension of the rules,” which allows the bills to be fast-tracked but means they must receive two-thirds support to pass:
  1. H.R. 485, the Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act
  2. H.R. 1085, a resolution to award three congressional gold medals to the United States Capitol Police and those who protected the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021
  3. H.R. 1528, the Promoting Transparent Standards for Corporate Insiders Act
  4. H.R. TBD, the Eliminate Barriers to Innovation Act
  5. H.R. 1395, the Housing Financial Literacy Act
  6. H.R. 1532, the Improving FHA Support for Small Dollar Mortgages Act
  7. H.R. 1491, the Fair Debt Collection for Servicemembers Act
  8. H.R. 1565, the Senior Security Act
  9. H.R. 1502, the Microloan Improvement Act
  10. H.R. 1487, the Microloan Transparency and Accountability Act
  11. H.R. 1490, the 504 Modernization and Small Manufacturer Enhancement Act
  12. H.R. 1482, the 504 Credit Risk Management Improvement Act
  13. H.R. 1276, the VA VACCINE ActThe House will also vote on a rule to provide for the consideration later this week of H.R. 842, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act; H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act; and H.R. 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act.

    The Supreme Court will release orders at 10:30 a.m. and may announce opinions at 10 a.m.

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