President Joe Biden and Democrats agreed to tighten eligibility limits for stimulus checks, bowing to party moderates as leaders prepared to move their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill through the Senate.
Senate Democrats said the proposal, which would block Americans earning $80 000 per year or more and couples earning $160 000 or more from receiving the $1 400 payments, was a good solution. The House bill also phased out payments for individuals making more than $75,000 and couples making more than $150,000, but payments were capped at incomes of $100,000 and $200,000, respectively.
The changes are a nod to moderate Democrats in the Senate who have pushed for a more targeted approach to a third round of stimulus payments.
Under the legislation, individuals earning up to $75,000, and couples up to $150,000, would get $1,400 checks per person. The full amount of the checks remains unchanged at $1,400, but the amount would phase out quickly for higher earners.
However, under the new terms set by Senate Democrats, individuals earning $80,000, heads of households making $120,000 and married couples with $160,000 in income would no longer receive the relief payments.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at the White House that Biden is pleased with the progress on the bill and has always been aware that there would be suggestions and negotiations while finalizing the bill.
There are also concerns that the payments will be based on 2019 income unless taxpayers have already filed their 2020 tax returns and had them accepted by the IRS. Their analysis found 297 million adults and children would benefit under the bill passed in the House, but only 280 million people would in the Senate version of the bill.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he hopes Republicans will unanimously oppose the bill, meaning the bill will need unanimous support from Senate Democrats to pass.
"Democrats had a choice", McConnell said.
Among the 10 senators signing the letter were five former Democratic presidential candidates - Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, now the Senate Budget Committee chair - as well as Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown of OH and Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden of Oregon. "They chose to go it alone, tack to the left, leave families' top priorities on the cutting room floor".
The Senate could start debate on the package as early as Wednesday night.
The bill would pay for vaccines and medical supplies, boost jobless assistance and send a new round of emergency financial aid to households, small businesses and state and local governments.
Democrats are passing the bill through budget reconciliation, a process which allows for limited debate time and for legislation to pass with a simple majority.
The bill passed the House without any Republican support and is not expected to get any votes in the Senate.
Lawmakers are now awaiting a score from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to ensure the legislation can be passed under Senate reconciliation rules.