The $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill goes back to the House tomorrow to reconcile the differences between the version they sent to the Senate. If all goes well, Biden will be able to sign it by the end of the week.
But some folks are already complaining that he went too far to get the bill through the Senate and caved on certain items, which proves that there’s always going to be someone who just can’t take the win and move forward.
During the debate, Senate moderates narrowed the bill’s federal stimulus payments, lowering the income cap on which Americans qualify for a $1,400 payment. And after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the Democrats could not include a $15 minimum-wage increase, an amendment Friday by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to try to add the provision back into the package fell far short of the necessary votes — with seven Democrats and one independent voting against the wage increase.
The sizable Democratic pushback against the measure came as a blow to liberals, who had previously griped that their agenda was being thwarted by just one or two of the centrists.
Moderates also whittled down the bill’s unemployment insurance benefits not once but twice — initially from the $400-a-week levels Biden wanted and again, in an effort to bring onboard Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), from the compromise reached for $300-a-week benefits extended through early October. Ultimately, the Senate approved $300 a week through Sept. 6.
The relief bill also offered a glimpse at how, in an evenly divided Senate, a single lawmaker — in this case, Manchin, who represents a state that Biden lost by nearly 40 points — can grind legislating to a virtual standstill. On Friday, the Senate set a record for the longest roll-call vote, holding open a tally on Sanders’s minimum-wage amendment for 11 hours and 50 minutes while Democrats, including Biden, scrambled to woo Manchin over the disagreement on the size of unemployment benefits.
Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), a close Biden ally who voted against Sanders’s minimum-wage amendment, described “some new dynamics” in the Senate majority requiring what he called “serious efforts” on issues ranging from immigration to infrastructure.
“This was a reminder that in a 50-50 Senate, if any one member changes their mind on an amendment or vote or an issue, it can change the outcome,” Coons said.
Democrats are grappling with other challenges, as well. There is significant dissent within the party over whether to abolish or overhaul the filibuster, a procedural maneuver that allows the minority party to block a final vote on Senate legislation by requiring a 60-vote threshold to continue.
Liberals are increasingly pressuring Biden and Vice President Harris to support scrapping the filibuster, arguing it hampers the administration’s chance of achieving campaign promises on issues including climate change, gun control, immigration and voting rights. But others, including Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), have said they do not support a repeal of the filibuster.
I realize that this is how the system works, and it is designed that way, but it still irks me that given the fact that over 140 Republicans in the House and almost all of the Senate GOP has yet to acknowledge that Joe Biden actually won the election, some people expected a 60-vote win and the $15 an hour minimum wage. Whereas the Democrats have to deal with a centrist coalition the progressives, at least they can talk reasonably with them. But expecting them to basically negotiate with MAGA terrorists will not get the job done, so you might as well do what it takes to work around them. Trust me, if the Republicans were in the same position, the filibuster would be a relic in some history book and they’d be whooping through their shit without a second thought, then move on to banning Black people from voting and liberating the Seuss Six.
The Republicans are lying in wait for the next move, be it voting rights or statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico. So my advice to the Democrats is to think like they would — at least in terms of parliamentary procedure — and get going.