Congress Prepares to Pass Stimulus Through Reconciliation
By Ty Brown
The Senate has passed a budget resolution to begin the process of passing another COVID relief bill through a party-line vote. Because the Senate is evenly split, Vice President Harris had to cast a tie-breaking vote in order for the measure to pass. This passage does not mean that the Senate has passed a relief bill, just that it has authorized the process of writing final legislation and has laid out the process for doing so. The House and Senate still have to follow the reconciliation procedure in order to actually pass another round of relief. That means the details of the legislation are yet to be determined.
One of those details is whether the measure includes a minimum wage increase, which Progressives are seeking. However, there are two reasons why that might not happen. One is that moderates such as Senator Manchin oppose the measure, and Democrats have only a handful of votes to spare in the House and none in the Senate. The other is the rules of reconciliation. Reconciliation must have a direct effect on taxation, spending, or debt, which restricts the contents of bills passed through the method. Without using reconciliation, Senate Republicans would be able to indefinitely obstruct any proposed relief, and Senate Rules require that other provisions not affecting fiscal matters not be tacked on to a reconciliation bill. It is contested whether that allows a minimum wage increase to be passed through a reconciliation stimulus. The Congressional Budget Office’s scoring that a $15 minimum wage would add $54 billion to the deficit provides an argument embraced by progressives that passing the minimum wage increase through reconciliation is allowed. Speaker Pelosi has stated that the minimum wage increase will be included in the bill sent to the Senate.
Another detail is whether the income limit for receiving stimulus checks seen in previous COVID stimulus packages should be maintained at $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for households. Some Democrats have said they support a lower income limit for the full amount of $1400, such as $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for families. So far, House Democrats are moving forward with a version of the stimulus that would maintain the $75,000 and $150,000 thresholds, and Senator Manchin has suggested that he might be open to maintaining a similar threshold as long as the money is targeted towards people truly in need.
Ty Brown is a freshman from the suburbs of Seattle studying political science.