House Democrats hope to clear President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic package late Friday and send it on to the Senate, where it will face some changes.
While Biden and House Democrats had hoped to use the bill — which will be immune to filibuster in the Senate — to boost the minimum wage eventually to $15, that prospect appeared to die late Thursday after the Senate parliamentarian said it would run afoul of Senate rules for so-called budget reconciliation bills.
Still, House leaders said they intend to retain the language in the bill they advance Friday, which will force Senate Democrats to strip it out as they make their own changes.
“If it doesn’t prevail because of Senate rules, we will persist. But we will not stop until we very soon pass the $15 minimum wage,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday at a press conference ahead of the planned vote.
“This is a spectacular piece of legislation. While the Senate has prevented us temporarily from passing one aspect of it, let us not be distracted from what is in here, because it is a great bill,” she said.
The bill includes a raft of spending and tax cuts meant to, Democrats say, keep the economy from falling back into recession. Republicans have criticized many of the provisions as too expensive or unneeded.
A third round direct payments to households, at $1,400 per eligible family member, would be made under the bill, at a net cost of about $422.3 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. State, local and Native American tribal governments would get $350 billion in direct aid to shore up their finances while an extension of pandemic-related jobless programs, including a temporary boost in the federal add-on to state unemployment checks to $400 a week from $300, would cost about $245.8 billion.
The bill would also set up a $128.6 billion fund aimed at helping elementary and secondary schools reopen safely.
While Pelosi has only four votes to spare if the vote is, as expected, along party lines to pass the bill, its path in the Senate is rockier. There, the margin is even tighter — Democrats hope to pass the bill in the evenly-split chamber with 50 votes and Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaker.
That means any Democratic defection could sink the bill. On the minimum wage, for example, West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin has said he doesn’t like the $15 an hour minimum wage originally proposed, which would take effect in 2025, and instead prefers an $11 an hour level.
Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders said late Thursday he wants to strip tax deductions from companies that don’t pay at least $15 an hour and provide tax incentives to small businesses to boost pay as a workaround to the absence of a minimum wage increase.
“That amendment must be included in this reconciliation bill,” he said.
Pelosi, asked Friday if she thought the bill after it gets back from the Senate would still pass the House, whether or not it had a minimum wage hike, said, “Absolutely.”
The bill is unlikely to get any traction among Republicans, who have noted money from several prior stimulus bills has not yet been fully spent and the economy appears headed upward. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is forecasting 2021 will see the strongest year-over-year economic growth since 1999.
“My ten moderate Republicans went down to see the president, suggested that they could justify about $500 [billion] or $600 billion. This is $2 trillion. To put that in context, that’s what we spent at the height of the pandemic last April,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday night on FOX News.
Republicans have also pointed out another issue for Democrats: a pay-as-you-go budget tripwire put into law during the Barack Obama administration would result in budget cuts next year unless either waived or offsetting budget savings or new revenues found.
According to the CBO, the statutory pay-go clawback would result in a cut of $36 billion, or 4%, to Medicare in 2022, as well as cuts in some other federal entitlement programs.