Stimulus: Democrats push for $1.9 trillion bill to pass by the end of month

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Democrats are hoping to get President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package through the House by the end of the month and signed by the president by March 14 to prevent an unemployment benefits cliff.

“We hope to have this all done by the end of February,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said at a press conference on Thursday. “Certainly on the President's desk in time to offset the March 14 deadline, when some unemployment benefits will expire.”

This spring, up to 11.4 million workers stand to lose their base unemployment benefits, while all out-of-work Americans could see the extra $300 in weekly benefits disappear if no stimulus deal is passed, allowing three unemployment programs to expire, an analysis by The Century Foundation found.

US Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, speaks during her weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on February 11, 2021. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
US Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, speaks during her weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on February 11, 2021. (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

The Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC), which provides an additional $300 in weekly benefits, expires on March 14.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) — provides benefits to contractors and self-employed workers — and the the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) — which provides an additional 24 weeks of benefits — also on that date. But workers can still use their remaining PUA and PEUC weeks until April 11.

Read more: Here's what's in Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion 'rescue plan' that could help your wallet

Democrats are trying to pass the $1.9 stimulus plan through reconciliation, which requires only 51 votes in the Senate. That means the support of the entire Democratic caucus in the Senate, along with Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote, would be enough to pass it. It remains unclear whether the bill would get the backing from more centrist Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).

“The most important thing is to get it passed by March 14,” Andrew Stettner, an unemployment insurance expert and senior fellow at the Century Foundation, told Yahoo Money. “I will really be looking for them to pass it two weeks before then to avoid any kind of gap.”

The Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) or the extra $300 of weekly unemployment benefits expire on March 14. Additionally, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), providing benefits to contractors and self-employed, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) expire on April 11. Graphic: Yahoo Finance/David Foster
The Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) or the extra $300 of weekly unemployment benefits expire on March 14. Additionally, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), providing benefits to contractors and self-employed, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) expire on April 11. Graphic: Yahoo Finance/David Foster

‘It becomes a political question’

The House Ways and Means Committee finished marking up many of the legislative provisions on Thursday evening including stimulus checks, unemployment benefits among others.

“Today we answered the call of the American people by advancing big, ambitious legislation to help end the pandemic and save the economy,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means. said in a statement on Friday. “I look forward to voting with my colleagues for final passage soon. There is no time to waste.”

The legislation will be sent to the Budget Committee next week and then to the Rules Committee before a House floor vote, Pelosi said.

While the timeframe seems possible, getting enough votes in the House and the Senate is the obstacle, according to Mark Harkins, a former congressional staffer and senior fellow at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute.

“Absolutely possible procedurally,” he told Yahoo Money. “It becomes a political question of whether the final product out of the House Budget Committee can garner a majority of votes on the floor of the House.”

Biden’s $1.9 trillion legislation includes $1,400 stimulus payments, the extension of key unemployment programs that are set to expire in the spring, aid to small businesses, $350 billion to state and local governments, an increase in tax credits for low- and middle-income families, and $160 billion for a national program on vaccination and testing. It also calls for increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Some provisions from Biden’s initial plan like stimulus checks and unemployment benefits are being amended by House Democrats, leaving out some high-income earners from getting a direct payment and trimming the duration of the unemployment benefits.

It is unclear whether all those provisions could pass through reconciliation because they must have a budgetary impact on the federal government to qualify for the process. Pelosi said on Thursday that the $15 minimum wage would be included in the legislation despite calls that it doesn’t affect the overall spending or revenue of the federal government.

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Denitsa is a writer for Yahoo Finance and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @denitsa_tsekova.

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