House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the work would be done this week on President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package so it can be quickly passed during the first week of February even though the House will not be in session. There is a different story in the Senate, as Republicans there begin to sour on the plan and the Democrats need 10 of them to support the bill. The package includes a $1,400 direct stimulus payment to Americans.
"We'll be doing our committee work all next week so that we are completely ready to go to the floor when we come back," Pelosi told reporters during her weekly press conference on Thursday, Jan. 12, reports Business Insider. House Democratic leaders told the caucus earlier that they will not be in session during the last week of January to focus on "committee work." Biden's proposed legislation includes more federal assistance for state and local governments, businesses, and individuals and continuing the federal enhanced unemployment insurance. Biden has also proposed more funding for vaccine distribution and increasing the federal minimum wage to $15.
While Pelosi may want to move fast to fulfill Biden's wish to provide more help early in his presidency, Republican Senators began dragging their heels on the proposal. Sen. Susan Collins told reporters Thursday she was "sympathetic" to increasing vaccine funds but did not see a reason to pass legislation so soon after the $900 billion package in December. "Maybe a couple of months from now, the needs will be evident and we will need to do something significant, but I'm not seeing it right now," Collins said, reports NBC News.
Sen. Mitt Romney, who has broken with Republicans in the past, told NBC News he was not in a rush to have another big stimulus package passed. "My own view is that what's holding back the economy is COVID, not money," the Utah Republican said. "I want to do everything we can to get the COVID vaccines out. But once the COVID vaccine is out and people are inoculated, I believe you'll see the economy coming back."
Biden's package needs 10 Republicans to join the 50 Democrats for it to pass the Senate. The White House favors that method, but Democrats have options as the majority party in the Senate. They could use budget reconciliation to get around the filibuster. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who will chair the Senate Budget Committee, supports using reconciliation if Democrats cannot get enough Republican support. (Republicans used reconciliation to pass the Tax Cut and Jobs Act during President Donald Trump's administration.)
During her first press conference on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would not dismiss any option for getting the legislation passed. "His clear preference is to move forward with a bipartisan bill. There’s no question about it," Psaki said. "But we’re also not going to take any tools off the table for how the Senate — House and Senate can get this urgent package done."