The Senate passed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package on Saturday, and it’s now headed back to the House of Representatives for a vote on the amendments that were made.
Votes fell largely along party lines with all 48 Democrats and the two independents that caucus with them supporting the package and 49 Republicans objecting. (GOP Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska was absent due to a family emergency.) If the House passes the revised package, Americans would see another round of stimulus checks, increased weekly unemployment payments and additional direct payments as part of the Child Tax Credit.
On Wednesday, Democrats agreed to reduce eligibility for $1,400 stimulus checks. Individuals earning up to $75,000 and joint filers with incomes below $150,000 will still receive the full amount. But, instead of phasing out at $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for joint filers, payments will now cut off completely at $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for couples.
The package would also increase the Child Tax Credit from $2,000 to $3,000 for children under 17 and $3,600 for children under six years old. Eligible parents who earn $75,000 or less individually or $150,000 as a joint filer would receive monthly payments worth 1/12 of the advance amount.
Noticeably absent from the package the Senate voted on was an increase to the minimum wage. To the dismay of some, senators upheld the decision of the parliamentarian that a plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 was not permissible under the rules of reconciliation.
Senator Bernie Sanders, who encouraged the Senate to ignore the parliamentarian’s ruling, introduced an amendment to increase the federal minimum wage on Friday, but it didn’t gather the support necessary. The Vermont independent still voted in favor of the package, though he has committed to the continual pursuit of an increase to the federal minimum wage.
“Obviously, as soon as we can, we must end the filibuster that currently exists in the U.S. Senate,” Sanders said on Monday. “Given the enormous crises facing working families today, we cannot allow a minority of the Senate to obstruct what the vast majority of the American people want and need.”
A perk of reconciliation is that it’s not subject to a filibuster, which would require Republican support to overcome. Ending debate on an issue requires 60 votes, and the parliamentarian’s decision re-ignited calls for Democrats to use the nuclear option to end the filibuster for passing minimum wage.
The White House hasn’t ruled out ending the filibuster as a means of passing minimum wage, but it faces opposition from some Democrats, including Senator Joe Manchin. The West Virginia Democrat has made it clear he would “never” support ending the filibuster, and Senator Krysten Sinema would also require some convincing.
Both Manchin and the freshman Arizona senator voted in favor of the package.
Along with Democrats agreeing to reduce the income levels for stimulus checks, the Senate reduced the amount that will be paid out in weekly unemployment payments. Instead of the $400 per week that was outlined in the package that passed the House, the Senate’s version put payments at $300 and extended them through the end of August.
Much of the package that passed the Senate is the same as the version the House approved earlier, but the changes could make for a tense vote. Progressives were outspokenly critical of the cut to the minimum wage plan, and Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal told CNN ahead of the vote they were “open” to withholding their vote.
“We’re going to see what the whole package looks like and then we’ll make a decision,” Jayapal said.
Democrats have the majority in the House with 221 seats and need 218 to pass the package, so without Republican support, they can only afford to have three members oppose the package.