MINNEAPOLIS — Despite just a one vote majority in the U.S. Senate, and an impeachment trial now about to begin, pressure is on Congressional Democrats to follow through on President Joe Biden's promised $1.9 trillion dollar stimulus plan in just a few weeks.
"The Biden administration has been very adamant that they want this thing passed and signed before mid-March," said Jeff Stein, who is the White House Economics Reporter for the Washington Post. "At that point, tens of millions of people are going to lose unemployment benefits if no action is taken."
As Stein first reported for the Washington Post on Sunday, House Democrats are including an expanded Child Tax Credit of $3,000 for children six to 17 years old, and $3,600 for each child five and under.
Like previous stimulus payments, the size of the credit would begin to shrink for individuals who make more than $75,000 a year or couples making more than $150,000 a year.
On Monday, the White House indicated that President Biden supports the proposal.
There is less clarity around the next round of stimulus checks. Democrats agree on $1,400 checks, but the party is split on who should qualify. Senator Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, has been pushing for the checks to be more targeted to those making less. Stein says Manchin and some moderate Democrats, along with some Senate Republicans, favor a plan that would begin phasing out payments at $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for couples.
"Joe Manchin is the most conservative Senate democrat by a pretty significant degree," Stein said. "All it takes is a single defection among Senate Democrats, there are 50 of them, so all it takes is one of them to vote against this bill and the whole thing comes crashing down. Manchin has a ton of power here, as the most conservative senator, to mold the bill as he wants."
But Senator Bernie Sanders is part of a group of more liberal Democrats who are pushing back, in an attempt to keep the same income guidelines as previous checks.
"They have been arguing that to lower the threshold so dramatically would cut tens of millions of people off of these payments, and amount to a betrayal of the campaign promise that they say was essential for democrats taking control of power in Washington," Stein said.
That puts even more pressure on the White House, which is attempting to move forward without bipartisan support.
Stein: "They are kind of caught in the middle here, trying to navigate the two poles of their caucus, trying to make sure everyone is happy so the whole bigger relief package doesn't come crashing down."
Kent Erdahl: "If we know anything about Washington, it's that things can change, and things might not always happen the way that they are presented. What does it look like right now, if you had to give odds of something like this actually happening?"
Stein: "I think it's pretty certain at this point, not assured but pretty likely, that both this new child benefit and the stimulus payments, $1,400 per person, are approved in some form in the next few weeks. I think it's still an open question about exactly what the thresholds are, and who qualifies and who is eligible."
If approved as currently proposed, the increase in the Child Tax Credit would begin in July and would be paid monthly, instead of the current $2,000 credit that is paid out once a year. The credit would also be expanded to reach more low income families, who don't currently qualify for the full amount.