House Democrats unveil draft coronavirus relief legislation

House Democrats on Monday unveiled draft legislation for key parts of the coronavirus relief package, which committees are expected to advance later this week.

The measures would then be put together for the $1.9 trillion package proposed by President Biden.

Among the measures expected to be approved at the committee level later this week is an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated on Monday would lift 900,000 people out of poverty but risk 1.4 million job losses.

Democrats also unveiled the details on Monday of another central aspect of their relief proposal: a third round of direct payments to individuals, this time of up to $1,400 per person.

The total payment would phase out for individuals with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000, or $150,000 and $200,000 for joint tax filers.

It would also increase supplemental weekly federal unemployment insurance payments from $300 to $400. The increase would go into effect after the current weekly payments expire in mid-March and last through Aug. 29.

The House Ways and Means Committee will mark up its package, which includes the direct payments and unemployment insurance, on Wednesday through Friday.

Several other committees will be holding markups in the coming days to approve various parts of the coronavirus relief package, which Democrats are aiming to bring to the House floor during the week of Feb. 22.

The House Education and Labor Committee’s portion of the coronavirus relief package includes the minimum wage increase, as well as nearly $130 billion to help K-12 schools reopen for in-person instruction, $39 billion for child care providers and $40 billion for institutions of higher education. It also includes health care coverage subsidies for people who have lost their insurance after becoming unemployed.

“In the midst of a deadly pandemic, millions of American workers are risking their lives for poverty wages that haven’t been raised in over a decade. It’s long past time for Congress to right this wrong and enact a minimum wage that allows families to live with dignity,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said in a statement ahead of the House Education and Labor Committee’s Tuesday markup of the measure.

A total of 12 House committees are charged under the budget resolution that the House and Senate adopted last week with reporting legislation in accordance with their respective jurisdictions for the coronavirus relief package.

After each committee advances its portion of the relief package, the House Budget Committee will then combine all of the measures and advance them to the House floor as one budget reconciliation bill.

Not all committees had unveiled their portions of the coronavirus relief package yet as of Monday.

The House Financial Services Committee is set to meet on Wednesday to mark up its measure, which includes $10 billion for Defense Production Act spending to increase domestic production of personal protective equipment, vaccines and COVID-19 tests; $25 billion for emergency rental assistance; $5 billion to help the homeless; and $15 billion to extend payroll support for airline industry workers.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s portion, which is also set for consideration by the panel on Wednesday, includes $50 billion allotted for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, $8 billion in relief for airports, $30 billion for Federal Transit Administration grants and $1.5 billion in funding for Amtrak, including more than $820 million for Northeast Corridor operations.

The fate of the most controversial portion of the Education and Labor Committee’s part of the coronavirus relief package, the minimum wage increase, is not yet clear.

Democrats are hoping to pass the minimum wage increase, a key progressive priority, through the budget reconciliation process that allows them to overcome a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

But a restriction known as the Byrd Rule prevents any policies from being included in the budget reconciliation process unless they have a direct budgetary effect. The CBO’s finding in the Monday report that the minimum wage increase would add $54 billion over 10 years to the budget deficit could bolster progressives’ efforts to include the minimum wage increase in the coronavirus relief bill.

Yet it’s not clear Democrats will have 50 votes in the Senate for a $15 per hour minimum wage hike anyway, given centrist Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) opposition to the idea. Manchin has suggested increasing the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $11 per hour, instead of $15.

Assuming all 50 Senate Democrats can stick together, with Vice President Harris providing a tie-breaking vote in the evenly split upper chamber, a budget reconciliation package wouldn’t be subject to a filibuster requiring at least 60 votes to proceed and would only need a simple majority to pass.

— Updated 6:31 p.m.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Joe Biden Joe Manchin Pramila Jayapal Stimulus

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