Welcome to the slog.
Major League Baseball teams on the East Coast put up with a tough job. They have a great west coast road trip that will run for a few weeks. Games in Arizona. San Diego. The Angels. San Francisco. Oakland.
College students meet hard work. That final crunch of class work, two weeks to the end of the semester, followed by final exams.
And Congress is no stranger to hard work. Especially when there is a large and expensive bill, rushing through the parliamentary peak.
That’s the case for the next two weeks as Congress tries to finalize the Democrats’ $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus aid bill.
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Completing the fifth round of COVID relief was hard work. The talks began during the summer. Congress finally passed the bill just before Christmas. He then faced a veto threat from former President Trump. But the president signed the measure just before the new year.
That was hard work. Long work in slow motion.
The effort to pass the sixth major coronavirus package is an effort of speed. It will consume two weeks (or more) of traffic on the congressional stage. But it will be hard work. Maybe even devouring the next few weekends.
The House of Representatives Budget Committee formally launched the “painstaking” process on Monday afternoon. The panel authored its special budget reconciliation measure this week to handle the $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus aid bill.
“We are in a race against time,” argued House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky. “Bold action is needed before our nation is more deeply and permanently scarred by the human and economic cost of inaction.”
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Think of this first measure as the “shell” to handle the actual bill. A vehicle. The final text of the coronavirus bill will “travel” within the COVID package.
The measure then goes to the House Rules Committee. House Democrats insist they will give members three full days to consider the package. That is why we are facing a vote on Friday or Saturday on this version of the legislation.
It’s a huge 600 page bill.
Republicans realized that a considerable part of the plan has little to do with actually addressing the pandemic, either from a health or economic perspective. Some of that is debatable. But Republicans cited $ 35 billion in subsidies to help with the Affordable Care Act premiums, $ 1 billion for underprivileged farmers. $ 30 billion for local transit systems. And, something Republicans generally opposed last year, a staggering $ 350 billion for state and local governments.
“Now we know it’s the wrong plan, at the wrong time, for all the wrong reasons,” protested Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), the top Republican on the Budget Committee. Smith argued that the government has yet to spend more than $ 1 trillion from previous COVID packages.
The most controversial provision of the bill is an increase in the hourly minimum wage to $ 15. Republicans, and even some Democrats, are more than willing to fight that.
“What does that have to do with COVID relief?” asked House minority whip Steve Scalise, R-LA. “Those small businesses are going to have an even harder time coming back when a $ 15 minimum wage is reached. These things have nothing to do with COVID.”
Democrats will likely have to act alone in both the House and Senate to pass this measure. But it is not ruled out that Democrats can elect one or two Republicans in any body to vote in favor.
The Senate will not address the initial version of the reconciliation plan until next week at the earliest. The House is set to retrieve the bill from the Senate next week. An amendment deadline for the House’s final plan is set for this Thursday. The House would then presumably consider the final version of the bill next week or when the Senate sends it back through the Rotunda.
Despite Republican protests (mostly) about raising the minimum wage, Senate MP Elizabeth MacDonough scraps the $ 15 off duty.
Here’s why this is a problem:
The House and Senate are using special budget reconciliation rules to push through the coronavirus bill because it can prevent filibuster. There is no way Democrats can conjure up 60 votes to overcome conventional filibuster. But using the special budget reconciliation process for this COVID bill allows Democrats to short-circuit the bill. If Senate Democrats stick together and get all 50 Senate Democrats to vote yes, they could pass the measure with Vice President Harris breaking the tie.
But the problem is that the reconciliation bill cannot include policy provisions or increase the deficit for an extended period.
Provisions such as the minimum wage could violate the two requirements listed above. So House Liberals are likely to vote for the minimum wage on the first package. But then he must make a judgmental decision if he is removed from the Senate package. Democrats also get a chance to say they voted yes, but then blame the “nasty old Senate and its weird budget rules” for eliminating the minimum wage increase.
But will House Democrats stick together?
Keep in mind that there are a lot of topics that senators could remove because they don’t fit within the budget rules.
You see, the House does not have to abide by “budget reconciliation” restrictions. The Senate does. So you may have many of these layouts just for show.
$ 100 million to extend Bay Area Rapid Transit caught the attention of some Republicans.
“That’s one of the dangers of having such a big bill,” complained Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas. “Let’s not build an underground railroad through Silicon Valley.”
House Democrats can only lose five votes and pass a bill on their own without needing Republican help. And the Democratic leaders of the House of Representatives fully admit that they hope the COVID bill they send to the Senate will be a different animal when it returns. The House would have to accept the Senate version to have both bodies on the same page.
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Senate Democrats may lack the votes to pass the measure themselves, even if MacDonough rules that the minimum wage provision is in order. Senators Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., And Joe Manchin, DW.Va., oppose raising the minimum wage on this bill.
So it could be hard work. You never know for sure how long it will take to apply all the provisions and make sure the votes are in the right place.
The goal is for both bodies to pass the bill in early March. That’s when a batch of approved benefits on the previous COVID bill expire. That race against time is why the next few weeks are going to be tough.
Until the next COVID bill.