WASHINGTON – The Democrats took the first step on Tuesday to enforce President Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion economic rescue plan. A budget maneuver was used that could eventually make the measure law without Republican support.
The move advanced the two-pronged strategy that Mr Biden and the Democratic leaders are using to expedite the bailout package through Congress: show Republicans that they have the votes to pass an ambitious spending bill with only Democratic backing, bid however, to negotiate some details, hopes for Republican support.
“We’re not going to water down, waver or delay,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and majority leader, in the Senate. “There is nothing in the process itself that prevents bipartisanism.”
The 50-49 line enabled Democrats to move Mr Biden’s plan forward through a budget vote that would allow him to vote by simple majority and bypass the need for Republican support. (Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican from Pennsylvania, was absent and did not vote because he was held up by snow.)
The vote came the day after 10 Republican senators in the White House met with Mr Biden to receive a smaller package worth $ 618 billion that they said could win both parties’ support.
Mr. Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen virtually met with Senate Democrats over lunch Tuesday afternoon.
On the call, Mr Biden spoke “about the need for Congress to respond boldly and quickly,” Mr Schumer said afterwards. “He made a very strong point of the need for a big, bold package. He said he told Senate Republicans that the $ 600 billion they proposed was way too small. “
While Mr Biden said he had told Republicans he was ready to make some changes to his proposal, he and Ms. Yellen told the group that if the Senate approved the Republican plan, “we would have been bogged down in the Covid crisis for years.” according to Mr. Schumer.
Senate Democrats could approve the budget resolution as early as Friday. On Tuesday, a key Democratic Senator announced he would back it: Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who is a key swing vote, agreed to move the budget process forward “because we are dealing with the urgency of Covid-19 need crisis. “
“But let me be clear – and these are words I shared with President Biden – our focus must be on the Covid-19 crisis and the Americans hardest hit by this pandemic,” Manchin said in a statement signaling he could still vote against aspects of Mr Biden’s plan that he opposes. “I will only support proposals that will get us through and end the pain of this pandemic.”
Mr Manchin also reiterated his opposition to Mr Biden’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour, which could force Democrats to remove it from their legislative package.
The budget resolution would direct congressional committees to draft laws that could include Mr Biden’s stimulus proposal, which would include $ 1,400 in direct payments for many Americans, funding for vaccine distribution, reopening schools, and other measures. The committees would work to finalize the plan while the Senate is due to hold an impeachment trial against former President Donald J. Trump on charges of the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
The introduction met opposition from Republicans, who discussed the proposal with Mr Biden in the White House on Monday night, warning against pursuing it through reconciliation. Many of these senators voted for the 2017 tax cut bill, which Republican leaders passed through reconciliation without a single democratic vote.
Some Republican Senators viewed Mr. Biden as receptive to their proposals, but said his Chief of Staff Ron Klain shook his head dismissively during the Republican presentation, according to one participant in the meeting.
“It’s not a good signal that he’s taking a take-it-or-leave approach after his president made an inaugural address on the basis of unity,” said Senator Todd Young, Republican of Indiana.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican and the minority leader who campaigned for reconciliation for both tax cuts and a failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act under Trump, said the group of 10 Republicans who met with the president did Leaving the White House in Faith Mr Biden was more interested in compromising than his co-workers or Mr Schumer.
“They chose a completely partisan path,” McConnell said of Senate Democrats.
Lawmakers have started pushing for changes to the Biden plan, including the Democrats who on Tuesday pushed for its costs to be partially offset by the repeal of a business tax break approved by Congress last year.
More than 100 lawmakers, led by Texas Representative Lloyd Doggett and Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, say the move – and a related change that would effectively increase taxes for some businesses in the coming years – reduce borrowing The federal aid package could decrease by as much as $ 250 billion.
“The best place to start for Republicans calling for closer assistance is to get rid of the $ 250 billion hedge fund manager and real estate speculator premium that previously put them under CARES,” Doggett and Whitehouse said in a written Explanation.
The tax cuts in question, which focus on so-called net operating losses, were incorporated into a bailout bill passed in March as the pandemic spread and the nation was in the middle of a recession. They were temporary setbacks to a corporate deduction restriction under the 2017 tax law that Republicans passed and signed by Mr Trump. In fact, the March provision enabled some companies that had suffered large losses in recent years to reduce their tax charges on the federal government by using those losses to offset taxes on profits made over the past five years.
Proponents of the tax break – including Congressional Republicans and corporate groups – said the move would allow a cash inflow to companies suffering from the pandemic.
Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday proposed repealing the change that related to losses from 2018 to 2020 and making the Trump-era limit on repatriation of net operating losses permanent.
Mr Biden also faced pressure Tuesday to cut his spending plans and compromises with Republicans from an influential corporate group that had welcomed his original proposal.
In a four-page letter to Mr. Biden and the leaders of Congress, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said lawmakers should prioritize money in its economic aid package for vaccine distribution, reopening of schools and childcare facilities. She urged them to tie extra months of assistance to the long-term unemployed to economic conditions in the states, cut aid when the economy improves, and provide less aid to the unemployed than Mr Biden has suggested.
The chamber also urged Mr Biden to reduce the number of Americans who are eligible for direct payments, citing statistics showing the majority of households earning more than $ 50,000 a year did not lose any income in the pandemic .
But Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters Tuesday that Mr. Biden was planning to send payments to a large group of families, including some with six-figure incomes. Quoting a hypothetical couple in Scranton who made $ 120,000 a year, she said Mr. Biden believed “they should get a check.”
Carl Hulse contributed to the reporting.