President Joe Biden’s communications director on Sunday urged the U.S. House to quickly approve the $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill now that it has passed the Senate.
Kate Bedingfield said the administration hoped that there would be enough support for the measure in the Democratic-controlled House, which will consider the bill Tuesday. Democrats have only a 10-vote edge in the chamber.
“This is a historic and transformational piece of legislation that the Senate just passed,” Bedingfield said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “If you’re a member of Congress, and you’re looking at what is the best thing that you can do quickly to help people in your district, I think it’s passing this bill. So, we’re certainly hopeful that the House is going to move quickly.”
The bill returned to the House after the Senate amended the measure before passing the legislation, most notably reducing the income limits for receiving the $1,400 stimulus checks, cutting extra unemployment insurance benefits to $300 from the $400 a week in the House version, and removing a provision increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Several progressive House members, including Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-12th Dist., have expressed concerns over the Senate amendments. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., even tweeted Watson Coleman’s complaint that she was “frankly disgusted with some of my colleagues and question whether I can support this bill.”
But Bedingfield called the bill a “progressive piece of legislation” as she cited praise from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
“You heard Senator Sanders say that this was the best piece of legislation for working people in the modern history of this country,” she said. “This is a bill that reflects President Biden’s belief that the best way to get the economy back on track and get it growing is to invest in working people and middle-class people.”
Some of the provisions were scaled back to win the support of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., whose backing was crucial because no Senate Republicans voted for the bill. Manchin said the Senate amendments better focused the bill to those who needed the help the most.
“This was a targeted piece of legislation,” Manchin said on ABC’s “This Week. “It was because people need the help. And we helped every scenario. Also, we targeted our cities, our counties, our municipalities to where they’re going to be, the first time, having money that they’re able to use and control their own destiny with infrastructure, they can fix water lines now, sewer lines, they can get internet.”
The legislation would provide $1,400 stimulus checks for individuals making up to $75,000 and $2,800 checks for couples making up to $150,000. Adult and child dependents would receive $1,400.
The checks would phase out and end for individuals making more than $80,000 and couples making more than $160,000. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a progressive research group, said 400,000 fewer New Jerseyans would get payments due to income limits lower than in the original House-passed bill.
While 62% of Americans, including one-third of Republicans, supported the $1.9 trillion plan in a Monmouth University Poll in late February, and 68% of Americans, including 37% of Republicans, backed it in a Quinnipiac University survey earlier in the month, the third-ranking Senate Republican, John Barrasso of Wyoming, dismissed those findings on Sunday.
“When people find out what’s in this bill, they’re going to lose a lot of any enthusiasm they may have for it right now because this was not really about coronavirus in terms of the spending,” Barrasso, chair of the Senate Republican Conference, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press. “This was a liberal wish list of liberal spending just basically filled with pork.”
Barrasso complained that Biden and congressional Democrats refused to work with Republicans on the measure. Congress passed several coronavirus stimulus bills with bipartisan support last year, but then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also tried and failed to approve legislation that excluded Democratic priorities while refusing to consider two trillion-dollar spending bills passed by House Democrats that included another round of stimulus checks.
Manchin, though, said Republican concerns were reflected in the bill that did pass the Senate, even as no GOP lawmakers voted yes. He said that the first lawmakers Biden met with at the White House to discuss the stimulus bill were 10 Republican senators, who countered with a $618 spending bill that he rejected.
“He thought we needed to do a lot more, which is his prerogative and I support him with that, but with that, we had an awful lot of input from Republican friends all through this process,” Manchin said on ABC.
“A lot of the changes that we made that were basically brought into this process came by working with my Republican and Democrat colleagues together,” he continued. “They just couldn’t get there at the end. And President Biden encouraged them to be involved all the way through. He spoke to them all the way up to the end.”
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