Democrats in Congress are prepared to move forward with coronavirus relief without the help of their Republican counterparts. The first step toward getting a potential third round of stimulus checks to Americans across the country is a budget resolution – which Democrats can muscle through with a simple majority in the House and Senate. Their unfolding plan consists of hopes to pass it through both chambers next week.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that to recover the economy hit hard by the coronavirus, "Congress must pursue a bold and robust course of action," but that "if our Republican colleagues decide to oppose this urgent and necessary legislation, we will have to move forward without them." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the House would vote on its budget resolution next week, adding that moving forward could pressure Republicans to support the legislation. Although there isn't a locked-in schedule for the Senate vote, Majority Whip Dick Durbin said that next week was the "ambition," and incoming Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders said he would be ready to go with the reconciliation instructions.
President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal includes a round of $1,400 stimulus checks, more help for state and local governments, funding for vaccines and schools and a boosted unemployment benefit. It also includes unrelated measures like increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour. However, it's unclear whether the entire bill would pass under the Senate rules that determine what does and does not qualify under reconciliation. The budget process allows for bypassing the 60-vote legislative filibuster and limits what can be included.
Congress is facing an aggressive timeline to get the budget resolution through both chambers before Donald Trump's impeachment trial, slated to start the week of Feb. 8. After the budget resolution, lawmakers will still have to draft the coronavirus bill, with the House out of session until late February.
Democrats have the edge in the 50-50 partisan tie in the Senate since Vice President Kamala Harris can break a tie. Schumer will need the support of every one of his members to pass the budget resolution if he's going to do it without GOP help. But Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia who is part of a group of bipartisan lawmakers negotiating coronavirus relief, has sidestepped questions about whether he would vote for the budget resolution. His opposition alone would be enough to throw a wrench in the democrats' plans.
Meanwhile, the nearly $2 trillion bill would likely not garner much, if any, Republican support, with a price tag generally viewed as a non-starter after Congress passed a roughly $900 billion coronavirus bill late last month as part of the end-of-year government funding bill. However, even if Republicans vote against reconciliation, nothing is stopping them from ultimately voting for the COVID-19 legislation down the road.