Updated: Mar 9
Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Romney, Sasse, Portman, Toomey, Moran... They all fell in line and voted against Biden's very conservative and conservatively watered down COVID-rescue package. The bill is also immensely popular-- among Democrats, independents and even Republicans. But they all allowed McConnell to bully their weak asses into voting against it so the media morons can claim it wasn't a bipartisan bill. There were 2 amendments written by or supported by Republicans-- one by Rob Portman that every single Republican voted for and one by Mark Warner that just 6 GOP extremists and crackpots (Mike Braun, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee, Cynthia Lummis, Rand Paul and Tommy Tuberville) opposed. Even knee-jerk obstructionists like Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Miss McConnell, Tom Cotton, Rick Scott, Jim Inhofe and Joni Ernst voted for Warner's amendment.
But when it came to the bill-- no dice. They all jumped over the cliff together. Up top you can see a Navigator poll showing most voters blame the Republicans for obstructionism. This graphic below shows that 71% of the public supports Biden's COVID-relief package, including 67% of independent voters and a plurality of Republicans-- 48% in favor and 40% opposed.
Although on Tuesday the bill goes back to the House for approval of the changes-- like the stripping out of the minimum wage hike-- it is not likely that there are enough-- or even any-- progressives with the guts to vote against this popular bill, a move that, if there were 6, would forced Biden to negotiate with progressives, not just conservatives on the content of legislation. Imagine if AOC, Cori Bush, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Jamaal Bowman, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Ayanna Pressley, Barbara Lee all said, NAY, not 'til the rescue checks go back to the promised $2,000 or-- if they really want to get tough-- not 'til the minimum wage hike is back in the bill.
It's hard because there is so much good stuff in the bill-- the desperately needed $1,400 checks, aid for state and local governments, aid for schools to reopen. But The Hill reported this morning that "Republicans were even able to temporarily get in their amendment to lower the payments to $300 per week through mid-July, but in the end, Democrats agreed to provide a $300-per-week payment until Sept. 6, lining up with a deal the party announced on Friday night."
"Our goal has been to secure the strongest possible protections for jobless Americans that could pass the Senate," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) said about the final deal on jobless benefits.
The hang-up happened after it quickly became apparent that a deal announced on Friday morning, which would have provided a $300 weekly payment into early October, didn’t have the support of all 50 Democratic senators, which it needed in the face of GOP opposition.
Democrats huddled with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), the lone holdout, for hours before ultimately clinching the agreement for the payments into September. The deal also makes the first $10,200 in unemployment benefits tax-free for households with an income of up to $150,000.
“When we started negotiating it took longer than it should have. But we got it done, we got a better deal,” Manchin said on Saturday about the talks.
Manchin said that he wasn’t aware of the initial unemployment deal until 10:00 a.m.on Friday, around the same Democrats announced that they had a deal.
“‘I said wait a minute.’ Something I had never heard about,” Manchin added.
Though the Senate bill largely reflects the House legislation, the unemployment agreement was one of several significant changes.
The Senate bill also stripped out language that would have increased the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. The move came after the parliamentarian advised that the inclusion of the minimum wage hike did not comply with arcane rules that govern what can be included in reconciliation, the process Democrats are using to avoid the 60-vote filibuster.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) forced a vote on the amendment, but it fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a procedural hurdle. Democrats could have tried to overrule the parliamentarian, an option favored by Sanders, but it didn’t have the support of the White House or some of Sanders's colleagues.
Democratic Sens. Jon Tester (MT), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Chris Coons (DE), Tom Carper (DE), Angus King (I-ME), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Maggie Hassan (NH) and Manchin voted against the amendment.
Sanders, who told reporters that he wasn’t surprised by the defections, vowed to try again.
“If any Senator believes this is the last time they will cast a vote on whether or not to give a raise to 32 million Americans, they are sorely mistaken,” he said.
Democrats also lowered the cutoff level to receive a stimulus check. The Senate bill, like the House bill, would give individuals who make up to $75,000 and couples who make up to $150,000 a full check. But the Senate bill reduces the income ceiling for receiving a partial check from $99,000 to $80,000 for individuals and from $200,000 to $160,000 for couples.
The agreements to pare down parts of the bill reflect the reality of the Democrats' fragile majority. Because no Republicans were expected to vote for the bill, Schumer needed every senator in his 50-member caucus to support the legislation in order to push it through the Senate.
That meant finding ways to appease centrist senators, who had gone public with their desire to “target” the House bill, without losing progressives, who want the party to go as large as possible amid a global health pandemic that has killed roughly 522,000 people in the U.S. and infected nearly 29 million since early last year.
...Democrats also have a razor-thin margin in the House, where no Republicans are expected to vote for the bill, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) can't afford to alienate any faction in her caucus.
Democrats had been concerned that including Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) amendment to end the unemployment payments in mid-July could cause House Democrats to refuse to take up the bill. Democrats want to get the relief bill signed into law before current jobless benefits expire March 14.
"This trend is outrageous: Eliminating $15/hr Reducing thresholds for payments. ...Cuts to weekly payments What are we doing here? I'm frankly disgusted with some of my colleagues and question whether I can support this bill," Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) tweeted as the Senate talks played out.