Senate stimulus bill

Senate stimulus bill DEFAULT

Senate passes amended $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill

A $1.9 trillion U.S. coronavirus relief package took a step forward Saturday when the Senate voted 50–49 to approve a bill that will be sent back to the House of Representatives because the Senate changed the legislation originally approved by the House.

Known as the American Rescue Plan Act, H.R. 1319, the bill will be sent to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law if it passes the House without changes. Congress is under pressure to get Biden’s signature on the bill before legislation authorizing $300 a week in federal funds added to unemployment checks expires on March 14.

The Senate bill retains most of the tax provisions in the House bill unchanged. However, under the Senate bill eligibility for the recovery rebate credits (to be paid to most taxpayers in advance as economic impact payments) would phase out more quickly than it did in the two previous rounds.

For single taxpayers, the phaseout will begin at an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $75,000 and the credit will be completely phased out for taxpayers with an AGI over $80,000. For married taxpayers who file jointly, the phaseout will begin at an AGI of $150,000 and end at AGI of $160,000. And for heads of households, the phaseout will begin at an AGI of $112,500 and be complete at AGI of $120,000.

Under the House bill, the phaseout range was $25,000 for single taxpayers (i.e., from AGI of $75,000 to AGI of $100,000), $50,000 for joint filers, and $37,500 for heads of household.

The Senate bill also:

  • Provides $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits through Sept. 6 and makes the first $10,200 in unemployment benefits tax-free in 2020 for households making less than $150,000 per year.
  • Does not raise the federal minimum wage, which the House bill would have increased to $15 per hour.
  • Will not include funding for a bridge to Canada in upstate New York over the St. Lawrence seaway, or the extension of a railway system near San Francisco. Funding for both projects was included in the House bill.
  • Specifies that gross income does not include any amount that would otherwise be included in income due to the discharge of any student loan after Dec. 31, 2020, and before Jan. 1, 2026.

The legislation will provide funding for state, local, and Tribal governments; K-12 schools and colleges and universities; COVID-19 testing and support of the vaccine rollout; and small businesses.

Ken Tysiac ([email protected]) is the JofA’s editorial director. Alistair M. Nevius, J.D., ([email protected]) is the JofA's editor-in-chief, tax

Sours: https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/news/2021/mar/senate-passes-coronavirus-stimulus-bill-recovery-rebates.html

March 5, 2021 Covid-19 stimulus bill updates

Senate TV

A source familiar tells CNN that a deal about the path forward on the Covid-19 stimulus bill is coming soon.

The process had been stalled for several hours today as moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin was urged by Republicans to support a less generous plan extending enhanced benefits for the unemployed.

Under a final agreement accepted by Manchin, Senate Democrats will now offer an amendment to extend the enhanced Unemployment Insurance program through Sept. 6 at $300 a week, according to a Democratic aide with knowledge of the negotiations. 

So what come next? The Senate will have to gavel closed the minimum wage vote — which has been open since 11:03 a.m. ET.

Once that is done, the Senate will move into vote-a-rama, meaning that senators can offer as many amendments as they want. This is a free-flowing process so we are uncertain which amendments will be first and come after.

But the deal Manchin struck will be part of an amendment — likely offered by Sen. Tom Carper. Also, Republicans will have a competing amendment on jobless benefits offered by Sen. Rob Portman, who has been lobbying Manchin all day to get on board. It's unclear if Manchin will support this.

Many more amendments to come, and unknown how late it will go.

Sours: https://edition.cnn.com/politics/live-news/stimulus-update-us-relief-bill-03-05-21/index.html
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The Senate passed Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill – here’s what’s next

The Senate has passed President Joe Biden's landmark$1.9 trillionstimulus package, a major step in the bill's evolution into law.

The Senate, led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., voted along party lines Saturdayto approve the massive Covid-19 relief plan, which includes $1,400 stimulus checks for many Americans, $350 billion in aid to state and local governments and an extension of federal unemployment benefits.

The Democratic-led House now plans to vote on the Senate legislation Tuesday so that President Joe Biden can sign it into law early in the week, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Democrats are racing to pass the package before enhanced unemployment aid lapses on Sunday, March 14.

Passing the Senate version outright avoids the complicated step of trying to sort out differences between the two chambers in conference committee. Though the Senate bill is largely the same as the one passed by the House of Representatives in late February, there are some crucial differences.

The most notable difference between the bill the House passed and the one approved by the Senate is that the latter does not contain a federal minimum wage increase to $15 per hour. Senate Democrats were forced to abandon that provision after the parliamentarian ruled that the chamber could not pass the pay raise for millions of Americans under budget reconciliation.

Democrats in both chambers have passed the American Rescue Plan through reconciliation, a process that allows a party to pass a bill with a simple majority vote but restricts the types of provisions that can be included.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has already made clear that her caucus will "absolutely" pass the Senate bill even if an increase to the minimum wage must be pursued in future legislation. Pelosi, in a statement Saturday, praised the Senate bill as a "tremendous step forward to defeat the virus."

"Today is a day of great progress and promise for the American people, as the Democratic Senate has passed President Biden's American Rescue Plan to save lives and livelihoods," Pelosi said.

"The House now hopes to have a bipartisan vote on this life-saving legislation and urges Republicans to join us in recognition of the devastating reality of this vicious virus and economic crisis and of the need for decisive action," she said.

Though Pelosi is calling for bipartisan support, Republicans on Capitol Hill almost universally oppose the bill as too expensive even with the minimum wage hike no longer included. Not a single Republican voted for the Senate legislation, and Democrats are unlikely to win converts in the House.

Senate Democrats were forced to make concessions in order to keep moderates in their own ranks on board, namely Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. The legislation now maintains the federal jobless benefit supplement at the current $300 per week, rather than the $400 in the House bill. The change would keep the policy in place through September, rather than end it on Aug. 29 as the House plan did.

Still, House Democrats are expected to have the votes to pass the Senate bill. Biden, in remarks after the Senate vote, said he expects people to start receiving stimulus checks this month.

Sours: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/06/the-senate-passes-biden-stimulus-whats-next.html
Senate Passes Record Stimulus Bill

Biden Agenda Faces Difficult Test as Stimulus Measure Heads to Senate

The $1.9 trillion pandemic aid bill narrowly passed the House, but now must maneuver through a procedural and political thicket in the Senate.

WASHINGTON — President Biden’s agenda is facing its most consequential test as Democrats prepare to maneuver his $1.9 trillion stimulus package through the evenly divided Senate, an effort that could strain the fragile alliance between progressives and centrists and the limits of his power in Congress.

An early-morning House vote to pass the sweeping pandemic aid measure only underscored the depth of partisan division over the proposal, which was opposed by every Republican. But the road ahead in the Senate is far bumpier, with a thicket of arcane rules and a one-vote margin of control threatening to imperil crucial aspects of the plan as Democrats rush to deliver it to Mr. Biden’s desk within two weeks.

Already, Mr. Biden’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 as part of the plan has run aground because of budgetary rules for the measure, which Democrats are advancing under a complex process that allows it to pass by simple majority vote, bypassing Republican opposition.

In the week ahead, they will also face challenges in steering other aspects of the bill through procedural obstacles and around political pitfalls, including debates over how much to spend on closing state and local budget shortfalls and how to distribute expanded tax benefits aimed at helping impoverished families.

The challenge for Mr. Biden will be holding both sides together in the face of unified Republican opposition to secure a bill that White House officials believe will cushion vulnerable Americans through the end of the pandemic and turbo-boost the economy as it reopens in full.

“We have no time to waste,” Mr. Biden said on Saturday at the White House. “If we act now decisively, quickly and boldly, we can finally get ahead of this virus.”

Progressives are pushing hard for party leaders to change Senate rules to keep the wage increase in the bill, arguing that Democrats must not scale back their ambitions for Mr. Biden’s first major legislative package.

The debate over the minimum wage, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, told reporters, “sets the stage for how effective we’ll be for the rest of the term.”

But moderates including Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona want to keep Senate rules — which effectively require 60 votes to advance most major legislation — intact, and are opposed to including such a sharp increase in the minimum wage in the package.

Party leaders and White House officials remain confident that Mr. Biden has the votes, no matter the fate of the wage increase. All but two House Democrats voted for the legislation, called the American Rescue Plan, which has broad bipartisan support among voters. But congressional Republicans have united against it, after being effectively frozen out of drafting the bill.

“The House’s partisan vote reflects a deliberately partisan process and a missed opportunity to meet Americans’ needs,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, said in a statement.

The measure now moves to the Senate, which is split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris controlling the tiebreaking vote. Mr. Biden’s early attempts to find common ground with moderate Republican senators on the package yielded little other than general expressions of bipartisan aspiration, with the Republicans proposing a plan amounting to less than one-third of what the president is asking to address the toll of a crisis that has left 10 million Americans out of work.

With unemployment benefits set to begin lapsing on March 14 for the workers who have been thrown off the job longest in the crisis, Democrats have only two weeks to finish the package in the Senate and resend it to the House and Mr. Biden’s desk. Because party leaders decided to use a fast-track budget process known as reconciliation to swiftly move the legislation and circumvent Republican opposition in the Senate, the bill will need to comply with a series of strict budgetary rules along the way.

While the House included the federal minimum wage increase in the version it passed on Saturday, a key Senate official has warned that it violates the reconciliation rules, enabling Republicans to challenge it and jettison it from the package. It is likely that more changes to the bill will be needed to ensure it complies with Senate rules and can draw the support of every Democrat.

Senate Democrats are now spending the weekend plotting possible ways to salvage the minimum wage provision, which would gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2025.

Progressives in the House warned on Friday that they might withhold their votes for the stimulus package if the wage increase were removed. The debate has fueled an already simmering dispute over whether Democrats should try to abolish Senate rules, chiefly those governing filibusters that mandate a 60-vote threshold to move forward, that the minority party has long used to block major legislative initiatives.

“This is not a matter of whether you have the votes — this is a matter of whether you do what you said,” said the Rev. William J. Barber II, a co-chairman of the Poor People’s Campaign, a grass-roots organization that plans to continue lobbying for Ms. Harris to force a vote on the merits of the parliamentarian’s ruling and for Mr. Manchin, Ms. Sinema and other lawmakers to support taking the procedural steps needed for the minimum wage provision to become law. “Don’t hide behind a rule. Don’t hide behind a backdoor meeting.”

Mr. Biden has acknowledged publicly that the wage increase could fall out of the bill, and indicated he would sign the package regardless. His chief of staff, Ron Klain, ruled out the possibility that Ms. Harris would override the guidance of Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian who has said the proposal is out of order under reconciliation. Top Democrats have signaled that they have no plans to oust Ms. MacDonough, who became the first woman to hold the post in 2012, despite liberal calls to do so.

Still, White House economic officials argue that even the increase of the wage to $9.50 this year, as the bill calls for, would bolster incomes and spending for the lowest-paid workers in the economy, helping fuel economic growth.

Democrats have begun drafting alternative plans — including tax penalties for large corporations that pay low hourly wages — that could qualify under Senate rules and achieve similar goals. Top Democrats, including Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, are contemplating the possibility of including an amendment that would penalize corporations that pay workers less than $15 an hour, potentially imposing an escalating tax on the payrolls of large corporations.

Party leaders say they will find a middle ground that will allow the stimulus package to move forward.

“We have a consensus in our caucus that we are here to get the job done for the American people,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said on Friday at a news conference. Pressed on whether Democrats would ultimately be able to pass the legislation without the inclusion of the minimum wage provision, she said, “absolutely.”

Democrats are bracing for additional revisions to the legislation as a result of Ms. MacDonough’s guidance, including changing how quickly people can reap the benefits of an expanded tax credit meant to help low-income families with children. With some moderate Democrats in favor of targeting elements of the relief plan, they may also be forced to scale back or otherwise alter how the $350 billion allotted for state, local and tribal governments is distributed.

Republicans face perils of their own in opposing the measure en masse. The bill enjoys strong and bipartisan support in national polls, with seven in 10 Americans approving. Most polls show significant backing among Republican voters for the effort. Some show majority Republican support.

Critical provisions of the bill that Republican lawmakers have derided as wasteful — including direct payments of $1,400 per adult and child to individuals earning up to $75,000 a year and couples earning up to $150,000 — are backed by as many as four in five Americans.

Business groups and budget hawks have staked out a middle ground, urging Democrats to pare back or amend the package in the Senate. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has called for a bipartisan compromise on raising the wage, to an amount less than $15 an hour. The U.S. Travel Association called on lawmakers Saturday to take additional steps in the bill to support an industry that “lost half a trillion dollars and millions of jobs last year” — with no immediate rebound in sight.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which has raised concerns over the size of the package and the targeting of its spending, urged lawmakers to reduce the bill’s $350 billion in aid to state and local governments, and to scale back the number of Americans who receive direct payments in order to avoid sending money to people who have not lost hours or income in the crisis.

But without the majority support needed to eliminate the Senate filibuster, some Democrats are looking toward negotiations with Republicans as the only way to push a minimum wage increase into law.

“Not the answer we hoped for, but the one as a lawyer I expected,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, wrote on Twitter of the parliamentarian’s rejection of the minimum wage provision, which he called “within bounds.”

“Now we need to get it done the hard, old-fashioned way,” he added.

Sours: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/27/us/politics/stimulus-biden-senate-coronavirus.html

Bill senate stimulus

Divided Senate Passes Biden’s Pandemic Aid Plan

The chamber approved the package after a grueling marathon of amendment votes and last-ditch negotiations. The measure must now clear the House a second time.

WASHINGTON — President Biden’s sweeping $1.9 trillion stimulus bill passed a deeply divided Senate on Saturday, as Democrats pushed through a pandemic aid plan that includes an extraordinary increase in safety net spending in the largest antipoverty effort in a generation.

The package, which still must pass the House before it heads to Mr. Biden’s desk to be signed into law, is the first major legislative initiative of his presidency. The measure seeks at once to curtail the coronavirus pandemic, bolster the sluggish economy and protect the neediest people within it. Republicans voted unanimously against it and assailed it as unnecessary and unaffordable.

It would inject vast amounts of federal resources into the economy, including one-time direct payments of up to $1,400 for hundreds of millions of Americans, jobless aid of $300 a week to last through the summer, money for distributing coronavirus vaccines and relief for states, cities, schools and small businesses struggling during the pandemic.

Beyond the immediate aid, the bill, titled the American Rescue Plan, is estimated to cut poverty by a third this year and would plant the seeds for what Democrats hope will become an income guarantee for children. It would potentially cut child poverty in half, through a generous expansion of tax credits for Americans with children — which Democrats hope to make permanent — increases in subsidies for child care, a broadening of eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, and an expansion of food stamps and rental assistance.

Its eye-popping cost is just shy of the $2.2 trillion stimulus measure that became law last March, as the devastating public health and economic impact of the coronavirus crisis was coming into view. It is the sixth in a series of substantial spending bills Congress has enacted since then, and the only one to pass without bipartisan support, although it is broadly popular with members of both parties outside Washington.

“Today I can say we’ve taken one more giant step forward in delivering on that promise, that help is on the way,” Mr. Biden said in remarks at the White House. “It wasn’t always pretty, but it was so desperately needed, urgently needed.”

Yet with Democrats newly in control of both houses of Congress and Mr. Biden embarking on his first major legislative push, the party-line vote was an early indicator of the Republican opposition that threatens the new president’s agenda in a 50-50 Senate.

As leading Democrats raced to avoid a lapse in unemployment benefits set to begin on March 14, a bleary-eyed Senate approved the package 50 to 49, with one Republican absent. Final passage came after a grueling 27-hour session in which Democrats beat back dozens of Republican efforts to change the bill, and scaled back the jobless aid to placate moderates in their own ranks who were concerned that an overly generous federal payment would keep Americans from returning to work, stifling the recovery.

The marathon session featured the longest vote in modern Senate history, as Democratic leaders stalled for time during last-ditch negotiations with Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a moderate holdout, to trim the unemployment benefits so the measure could proceed.

The resulting package was a narrower version of Mr. Biden’s original plan, with major progressive priorities either dropped or curtailed to accommodate Mr. Manchin and other moderate Democrats. Unlike the president’s proposal and a version passed by the House last weekend, it omits an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15. It also narrows eligibility for stimulus checks and reduces weekly unemployment payments, which Mr. Biden and Democrats had hoped to increase to $400.

Still, the pandemic aid bill was one of the most far-reaching federal relief efforts ever to pass Congress, and represented a bid by Mr. Biden to use the power of the government to tackle the pandemic and invigorate the economic recovery by pouring immense amounts of money into initiatives to help low-income Americans and the middle class.

“The most important thing is what we delivered for people,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said in an interview. “The danger of undershooting is far greater than the danger of overshooting, and this may have been our last chance.”

The legislation would send another round of direct payments to American taxpayers making $75,000 or less and extend weekly unemployment benefits through Labor Day, making a large portion of jobless aid from last year tax-free. It would provide $350 billion for state, local and tribal governments, $130 billion to primary and secondary schools, $14 billion for the distribution of a vaccine, $12 billion to nutrition assistance and money for reopening businesses around the country.

It would also provide a benefit of $300 per child for those age 5 and younger — and $250 per child ages 6 to 17, increasing the value of the so-called child tax credit in an effort to significantly reduce child poverty. The bill also includes $45 billion in rental, utility and mortgage assistance, $30 billion for transit agencies, and billions more for small businesses and live venues.

The measure also would provide federal subsidies for people to keep the health insurance they had from work if they lost their jobs.

Researchers at Columbia University project the overall package will lift more than 13 million people from poverty this year, including nearly six million children, and estimate that a permanent program of children’s payments would decrease child poverty nearly in half.

“Not since Social Security have we made that kind of commitment to cut poverty,” said Christopher Wimer, a co-director of the university’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy.

The legislation remains broadly popular across the country, with state and local officials in both parties joining the chorus of industry groups, advocacy groups and voters calling for the federal government to provide additional relief. But congressional Republicans rallied against the plan, arguing that it was far more than what was needed and could overheat the economy. They cited a steady increase in vaccinations and more than $4 trillion allocated over the last year.

“The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way or through a less rigorous process,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, said Saturday morning as he urged his colleagues to vote against the bill.

They charged that in passing the pandemic relief package without their support or input, Mr. Biden had already failed to adhere to the promises of unity that carried him through the 2020 election and served as a cornerstone of his inaugural address. But Democrats scoffed at the complaints, noting that Republicans had not shown a willingness to negotiate a compromise that met the challenges the country faced.

Newly empowered in the Senate, Democrats instead chose to bypass Republican opposition and the risk of a filibuster — which takes 60 votes to break — and pass the legislation using a fast-track process known as reconciliation, which only requires a majority. But the strict budgetary rules governing the process forced Democrats to curtail their ambitions for the legislation, as did the competing factions of moderate and liberal lawmakers unafraid to wield their influence given the slim margins of control.

Even with changes, the bill remained more than than double the size of the roughly $800 billion stimulus package that Congress approved in 2009, when Mr. Biden was vice president, to counter the toll of the Great Recession. Top Democrats, many of whom voted to pass that bill and recalled winnowing down the package to appease Republicans, who still opposed it almost unanimously, said they were determined not to make the same mistake again.

Because the Senate package differs from the House version, it now returns to the House for a final vote, expected on Tuesday. Frustrated progressives could revolt and try to block it, but given the wide array of liberal priorities it addresses, leading progressives including Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the chairman of the Budget Committee, signaled they were satisfied.

“Despite the fact that we believe any weakening of the House provisions were bad policy and bad politics, the reality is that the final amendments were relatively minor concessions,” said Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus.

The struggle to push the measure through the Senate included two consecutive overnight sessions. First, Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, registered his objections by forcing the chamber’s clerks to read the entire 628-page bill aloud, a 10-hour-and-44-minute oration that began Thursday and ran into the early hours Friday. When the Senate reconvened in daylight, Mr. Manchin ground Senate action to a halt for more than nine hours as he successfully sought more reductions to the unemployment benefits.

Republicans then forced nearly three dozen amendment votes, a process that stretched until noon Saturday, in an effort to prolong an outcome they could not stop. The rejected changes included scaling back the entire plan to about $650 billion, conditioning school funds on the number of in-person classes, and reallocating state and local government funds elsewhere.

“Regrettably, there was no interest from Democratic leadership in negotiating a targeted, bipartisan relief package that meets the challenges at hand,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. “Our country is at its best when we come together as Americans to overcome the challenges we face.”

The effort also highlighted divisions among Democrats about how aggressive to be in tackling liberal priorities. The minimum wage increase fell out of the measure after a top Senate official determined that it did not comply with the strict budgetary rules that apply to reconciliation bills.

Mr. Biden, who worked in recent days to maintain Democratic support for the measure in a series of phone calls, also agreed to lower the income cap that determines who could receive a stimulus payment to $80,000 for individuals, $120,000 for single parents and $160,000 for households. He had proposed income levels $20,000 higher.

Under the bill, the full $1,400 check would go to Americans earning $75,000 or less — or $112,500 for single parents and $150,000 for couples. The size of the stimulus payments would fall gradually for those with incomes above those thresholds and disappear altogether for those earning more than the income caps.

Hoping to win over Mr. Manchin and other moderates, Democrats scaled back their hopes for raising the federal weekly unemployment payment to $400 and instead proposed keeping it at $300 but lengthening the duration of the program, until early October — about a month longer than Mr. Biden’s original plan. But even that solution proved unsatisfactory to Mr. Manchin, who insisted that the payments lapse sooner.

After hours of haggling, Democrats bowed to his wishes and agreed to forgo both the increase in payments and most of the additional extension. The resulting deal sets the expiration date for jobless aid at Sept. 6, just a week after the date Democrats had initially wanted.

But Democrats agreed to include a tax sweetener that would make the first $10,200 of unemployment payments from 2020 tax-free, in a bid to ensure that unemployed workers were not hit with an unexpected tax bill. After negotiations with Mr. Manchin, they limited it to those earning less than $150,000.

The legislation also would allocate $50 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to bolster vaccine distribution and help support struggling families across the country, and send $49 billion for testing and tracing.

Jim Tankersley, Nicholas Fandos and Jason DeParle contributed reporting.

Sours: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/06/us/politics/biden-stimulus-plan.html
Ron Johnson Forces Senate to Read the Stimulus Bill Out Loud - The Daily Social Distancing Show

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Senate today passed an economic stimulus bill, H.R. 3090, by a vote of 85-9. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) voted in favor the bill saying it provided long overdue relief for laid off workers and invests in the next generation of our economy as businesses recover from the weakened economy.

"The package we are approving today will extend benefits to workers who need it most," Cantwell said. "It invests in the next generation of our economy as businesses recover from the weakened economy."

Cantwell noted that four provisions were particularly important for Washington state:

13-week extension of unemployment insurance 2-year extension of the wind energy production tax credit Targeted business tax incentives contained in this stimulus package: bonus depreciation for capital investments, and increased write-offs for business losses "Tax extenders" that promote research and development across so many industries in our country. Senator Cantwell's statement for the record follows:

Mr. President, I rise today to impress on my colleagues just how important this legislation is to the workers in the nation who have borne the weight of this recession that was so exacerbated by the September 11th incidents.

My colleagues have heard me say this again and again, but the Pacific Northwest has suffered extraordinarily in the past year. My state of Washington now has the dubious honor of having the second highest unemployment rate in the nation, behind our neighboring state Oregon.

We had a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 7.5 percent in January - and the insured unemployment rate is above five percent.

I have analysts in my state who foresee a wave of layoff notices in the pipeline and estimate that the state is going to hit eight percent unemployed when the February numbers come out later this month.

Why is this the case? Well, we have a number of factors at work. I would like to give my colleagues a better understanding of the economic circumstances affecting my state.

Even prior to the tragic events of September 11th and even prior to the recession that may have begun in the early months of last year, Washington's economy was facing hurdles.

We have seen significant layoffs in aluminum, agriculture, and high technology - due to persistent droughts, the high cost of energy, massive reductions in timber harvests, and declining export markets.

My state is the most trade dependent state in the nation on a per-capita basis, and September 11th had a devastating impact on the aviation industry. In October, the Boeing Company announced that that it will lay off an estimated thirty thousand commercial division workers. Approximately eighty percent of those workers are located in the state of Washington.

The first layoff of Boeing workers - nearly four thousand -- occurred on December 14th, and the company set a schedule of layoff notices for the following months that predicted twelve-to-fourteen hundred job cuts per month through June of this year.

But it does not stop there. We have seen from previous recessions that when a Boeing worker is laid off, approximately two more jobs are lost further down the supply line. So where does that leave us? When all is said and done, we will probably have at least forty thousand layoffs in our state that will be attributable to the events surrounding September 11th. Some projections suggest that the number may go as high as sixty-five thousand.

I mentioned previously our statewide unemployment rate of 7.5 percent, but even more unsettling is the fact that fourteen of Washington's thirty-nine counties have unemployment rates above ten percent. In Ferry County, we are facing 15.1 percent unemployment. That same figure is 13.3 percent in Franklin County, 16.8 percent in Adams, 12.1 in Chelan, 11.5 percent in Grays Harbor, and the topper is 17.1 percent in Klickitat.

If this is not an emergency, I do not know what is. That is why we have insisted, for months now that the Senate pass a simple unemployment insurance extension of at least 13 weeks.

It is extremely disconcerting for me to know that so many workers displaced after September 11th have already reached or are nearing the end of their benefits eligibility. Since Sept. 11th, about 1.3 million workers have exhausted their unemployment benefits throughout this nation. In Washington state alone, more than forty two thousand workers exhausted UI claims from September 11th through the beginning of March.

And at the same time, heavily affected states and workforce areas throughout this nation are running out of training dollars.

That is why I and my colleagues have fought for emergency training dollars; that is why we have fought against cuts in WIA funding that were proposed in the budget; and why we have fought for this temporary extension in UI benefits.

This is about giving workers a chance to get back on their feet. It should also be our priority to invest in training those workers, so that we'll be ready with the highest-skilled workforce when we get the economy jump-started again.

My state has taken an aggressive approach to retraining our workforce, and has invested state dollars to provide the necessary support for displaced workers to put food on the table while they get skills training.

This is the direction that our nation should be heading - and it is one that we should be encouraging as we finally take this step to get the federal aid to the states. With the help of the Majority Leader in February, we were able to pass a clean 13-week unemployment benefit extension that took into account the unique situation of states that have aggressively worked to provide more substantial benefits for displaced workers. The Majority Leader and his staff have been tremendously helpful in recognizing these concerns and ensuring that we were providing the maximum assistance to all states.

I want to be clear, I am extremely pleased that the House has finally come to the conclusion that workers are desperate for this 13-week federal support, and has finally set politics aside to do the right thing for our workers, and our nation as a whole.

Mdme./Mr. President, I have worked to ensure that the language of this legislation is consistent with the extended benefits offered by our state - so that one of the most heavily impacted states in the nation is able to fully benefit from what we are doing today.

I understand that the Department of Labor has promised to provide a letter of interpretation of the House-passed legislation that is expected to clarify these issues, and specifically, the technical order of benefits that workers will be expected to receive. I urge the Secretary to get this assurance to us immediately, so that our state can plan to meet the needs of workers who have exhausted or will soon exhaust their benefits.

It was my intent, and I understand it was the expressed intent of the drafters in the House, to provide the 13-week temporary federal UI benefit immediately after the expiration of regular state unemployment insurance benefits - which is typically 26 weeks.

While I am disappointed that the House language is not explicitly clear on this matter, as was the Senate bill, I am pleased to hear that the Department understands our intent and will reportedly carry out these provisions in keeping with that intent.

I will be watching to ensure that the Secretary follows through on this commitment and puts the Department's priority where it should be - on providing as much assistance as possible to the areas of this nation that desperately need it - and to providing it in a time frame that truly reflects the urgency of the situation.

Again, I appreciate the phenomenal work of the Majority Leader and the entire Senate in doing its work on this bill months ago; and now that the House has finally come to the table, I urge that we move quickly to get it enacted and get extended benefits out to workers who need it most.

Finally, I will add that I am pleased with the targeted business tax incentives contained in this stimulus package. By providing both bonus depreciation for capital investments, and increased write-offs for business losses, we encourage economic expansion and development. By giving workers the resources to invest in themselves through training, education and health care, we provide the means for this expansion.

Additionally, I am pleased that this package contains the so-called "tax extenders" that promote research and development across so many industries in our country.

The country is at an economic crossroads and the choices we make today will affect us for years. We must maintain our fiscal discipline and invest in the nation's future business, education and worker needs.

The package we are approving today invests in the next generation of our economy as businesses recover from the weakened economy.

Thank you, Mdme./Mr. President.

Sours: https://www.cantwell.senate.gov/news/press-releases/cantwell-statement-on-senate-passage-of-the-economic-stimulus-bill

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Senate passes $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill, including $1,400 stimulus checks, with no Republican support

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package Saturday, capping off a marathon overnight session after Democrats resolved internal clashes that threatened to derail President Joe Biden's top legislative priority.

The far-reaching legislation includes $1,400 stimulus checks, $300-per-week jobless benefits through the summer, a child allowance of up to $3,600 for one year, $350 billion for state aid, $34 billion to expand Affordable Care Act subsidies and $14 billion for vaccine distribution.

The final vote was 50-49 along party lines, with every Republican voting "no." It came after Democrats voted down a swath of Republican amendments on repeated votes of 50-49 to avoid disrupting the delicate agreement between progressive and moderate senators.

Before it can be signed by Biden, the legislation will have to be passed again by the House because the Senate made changes to its version. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the chamber would vote Tuesday on the Senate-passed legislation.

Biden called the aid package "urgently needed" and praised the Senate for passing it Saturday, saying it will get "checks out the door" to Americans "this month."

"The resources in this plan will be used to speed up manufacturing and distribution of the vaccines, so that we can get every American vaccinated sooner rather than later," he said.

He praised the Senate and hailed the measure's "overwhelming bipartisan support of the American people," referring to polling that indicates the legislation is broadly popular.

The vote was a critical early test of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's ability to keep all 50 Democrats unified behind a major piece of legislation despite being an ideologically and regionally diverse caucus.

"From the beginning, we said this: We had to pass this legislation," the New York Democrat told reporters. "We made a promise to the American people that we were going to deliver the real relief they needed. And now we have fulfilled that promise."

Schumer said Biden called him and he told the president, "I knew we would get this done."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blasted Democrats for taking a partisan approach and argued that they would not deserve credit for the economic recovery.

"The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard or less rigorous way," he said. “Democrats inherited a tide that is already turning."

The legislation would be a victory for Biden, who campaigned for president primarily on bringing Covid-19 under control and reviving a shattered economy. The package also includes many progressive priorities, although others like a minimum wage hike to $15 an hour were forced out. Experts say the new policies will sharply cut child poverty.

The absence of Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, due to a family emergency prevented Vice President Kamala Harris from having to break a tie in the 50-50 chamber, which she had to do to allow the Senate to begin debate on the bill.

The Senate's changes to the House-passed version of the plan include reducing the jobless benefits to $300 (from $400 in the House bill) and extending them slightly to Sept. 6. The Senate limited eligibility for the $1,400 checks by capping the payments for those who make $80,000, or $160,000 for couples. And the bill subsidizes 100 percent of COBRA insurance coverage for jobless Americans, up from 85 percent in the House version.

The Senate also approved some modest and noncontroversial amendments offered by both parties before passing the final version.

The Senate appeared ready to begin the lengthy process, known as a "vote-a-rama," on Friday morning. But then Democratic leadership hit pause to sort out a last-minute dispute over jobless benefits and keep Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia on board after he appeared ready to side with Republicans and change that provision, a move that would have alienated progressives.

As a result, Democrats dragged out the first vote of the day for 11 hours and 50 minutes, setting a record for the longest Senate vote.

In the end, Manchin agreed to support a provision backed by other Democrats that also allows the first $10,200 of the jobless benefits to be nontaxable for incomes up to $150,000.

Biden was in touch with Manchin during the course of the negotiations on the unemployment benefits compromise, a source familiar with the discussions said.

"Today the Senate passed a Covid-19 relief package that will help kill the Covid-19 pandemic and set us on the right track to economic recovery," Manchin said after the vote. "I am proud to vote for this relief package and I look forward to seeing the president sign this bill into law."

Sahil Kapur is a national political reporter for NBC News.

Frank Thorp V, Julie Tsirkin, Carol E. Lee and Kelly O'Donnell contributed.

Sours: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/senate-passes-1-9-trillion-covid-relief-bill-including-1-n1259795


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