Negotiations over the $1.9 trillion fiscal stimulus proposal pushed by Democrats moves to the U.S. Senate, where the hectic debate for passage is expected to begin on Wednesday.
“We will have the votes we need to pass the legislation,” Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday, announcing that debate would kick off on Wednesday.
Democrats, however, have a slim majority in the Senate, 51 to 50, since the vice-president, Democrat Kamala Harris, votes in the event of a tie.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden insisted to his Party’s Senators that it is imperative to maintain unity, after lawmakers from the moderate wing proposed a reduction in the size of the program.
One of the main sticking points among Democrats has been the inclusion in the bill of a hike in the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour, demanded by the more Progressive wing of the Party.
However, the Senate legal services informed the Democrats that they cannot pass the increase with a simple majority of 51 votes, as they intended, but need 60, a figure unlikely to be reached.
The proposal has already passed the House of Representatives, also with a Democratic majority.
The most striking measure of the bailout proposed by Biden is a new direct payment of $1,400 to taxpayers.
In addition, the plan includes a $350 billion bailout for state and local governments; $20 billion for a national immunization plan; and another $50 billion for a testing system.
It also extends unemployment aid until August, since the current funds expire on March 14th, the deadline set by both the White House and the Democrats in both chambers to have the bill finalized.
Republicans argue that Democrats are using the pandemic as an excuse to add an exorbitant budget to the stimulus plan in areas that have nothing to do with dealing with the coronavirus.
This Biden economic bailout, if finally passed, would join the $900 billion bailout Congress pushed through in December and the $2.2 trillion bailout, the largest in U.S. history, last March.