August 3, 2021

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Democrats Agree to Trim Jobless Aid to Keep Stimulus Plan on Track – The New York Times

2 min read

With the vote still pending on Friday because of the impasse over the jobless aid, the measure to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 had attracted only 42 supporters — and 58 opponents. It was unclear when the vote-a-rama would resume, with text not yet available for the new plan.

“If anybody thinks that we’re giving up on this issue, they are sorely mistaken,” Mr. Sanders told reporters. “If we have to vote on it time and time again, we will — and we’re going to succeed.”

While Republicans had made it clear they were ready to draw out debate on the stimulus package with all manner of amendments that were doomed to fail, it was also clear on Friday that there were issues far more significant than a minority united in opposition. Lawmakers in both parties quickly focused on Mr. Manchin, who has repeatedly called for the overall bill to be more targeted and who singled out the unemployment provision as an example.

With the existing $300-a-week payments set to lapse next weekend, Mr. Biden’s stimulus plan and the House bill that passed last weekend to implement it proposed to increase the aid to $400 a week and extend it through the end of August.

But Mr. Manchin and other moderates worried that was too high, and leading Democrats had devised an alternative that would keep the weekly benefit at $300 but extend it until early October. They also added a sweetener: a new provision that would forgive up to $10,200 in taxes on unemployment benefits received through in 2020.

Believing they had a deal, the Democrats prepared for a vote on the proposal, but Mr. Manchin balked. And after hours of negotiating, they announced a new plan. The weekly benefit would remain at $300, but the new end date would be Sept. 6, lasting only a week longer than Mr. Biden had proposed. The tax sweetener would be available only to those earning less than $150,000.

The entire exercise was aimed at persuading Mr. Manchin not to endorse an alternative amendment by Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, that would keep the jobless payments at $300 and cut back the duration of the program, setting an end date through July 18. If adopted, the proposal would likely sap Democratic support for the stimulus plan.

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