Can COVID Relief be Pushed Through Congress?

Peter Sloniewsky, Staff Writer

In late February, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed a COVID relief bill that would guarantee $1400 stimulus checks to many lower-income Americans. President Biden stated that he hoped for “quick action” on the legislation, dubbed the American Rescue Plan. The Senate is set to take up the measure this week or next week. It is mostly held back by the Democratic House measure, which sets the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, recently denied by the Senate parliamentarian but likely to see an attempted comeback by progressive Democrats.
While disappointing the party’s progressive wing and minimum wage workers around the country, the minimum wage increase’s elimination from the bill will likely make passing it significantly easier. Democratic Senators Manchin and Sinema of West Virginia and Arizona have signified opposition to the bill if it includes the minimum wage increase, and removing the measure will likely lessen debate over other COVID relief.
In addition to debates over the minimum wage, Republicans have been calling out various sections of the bill which they believe not to be fully intertwined with the idea of COVID relief, such as grants for the arts and theater, and money for public infrastructure in states represented by Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Speaker of the House Pelosi. However, Democrats are using a process called budget reconciliation to pass the legislation, which means only a majority of 50 votes is required to overcome a potential Republican filibuster. The general sentiment amongst Democrats is that, while bipartisanship is important, more important is the idea of relief for millions of struggling Americans.