- Pelosi says Democrats are gearing up for a floor vote at the end of next week.
- She also said House Democrats were communicating with the Senate to ensure the bill complies with strict budgetary rules.
- Democrats want to enact the package by mid-March to head off the expiration of federal unemployment programs.
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Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that House Democrats were aiming to set up a floor vote for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion federal rescue package at the end of next week. But she also acknowledged some procedural hurdles remained before the bill could be signed into law.
The California Democrat said at her weekly press conference that Democrats in the House wanted to vote on the package by the end of February.
“At the same time, there is communication with the Senate as to what the Byrd rule will allow in the bills as we go forward,” Pelosi said, referring to a part of the reconciliation process that Democrats are employing.
The reconciliation procedure is a shortcut that allows Democrats to approve the package with a simple majority of 51 votes instead of the 60 usually required to thwart a Republican filibuster.
But reconciliation has strict guidelines governing it and chief among them is the Byrd rule. It outlines that every provision in a bill must be related to the federal budget to pass. The Senate parliamentarian interprets the rule, and it has led experts to say elements of the bill unrelated to tax and spending won’t survive the process.
The race to mid-March
Democrats are racing to approve the package ahead of the expiration of enhanced unemployment insurance on March 14, a timeline that sets up very little room for error. The House Budget Committee announced it would begin assembling the final relief bill on Monday, a week after it was expected to mark up the legislation.
The current House draft of the proposal would provide $1,400 stimulus checks and $400 federal unemployment benefits, and also start gradually implementing a $15 minimum wage. It also includes funding for vaccine distribution, virus testing, and state and local governments, among other provisions.
Republicans argue the level of spending is too high after Congress enacted a $900 billion package in December. Last year, lawmakers and President Donald Trump authorized $4 trillion in emergency spending to combat the pandemic.
The GOP has fiercely criticized the $15 minimum wage as a step that would cost jobs. The Senate parliamentarian may strike it from the final package as well.
Progressives are championing the measure as a critical pay boost for hourly employees since Congress hasn’t lifted wages in over a decade.
“Frankly, given the makeup of the Senate, this is our best opportunity and the right moment in the midst of this pandemic to give millions of workers a long overdue raise,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Progressive Caucus, told reporters on Thursday.
Democrats are also starting to look ahead to their next legislative priorities, which may include a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure package. On Wednesday, Biden met with top labor leaders at the White House to start gathering support from allies.
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