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Bipartisan group of senators calls for more targeted relief checks

A bipartisan group of senators is signaling that they want the next round of coronavirus relief checks to Americans to be more targeted.

The group is offering an amendment to the budget resolution part of the Senate's hours-long vote-a-rama on Thursday. Though it's nonbinding, the fact that it has support of 16 senators from both parties signals that the structure of the checks is an area of likely negotiation as Democrats craft the coronavirus relief package.

The amendment was offered by Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinHouse Democrats eye passing DC statehood bill for second time Biden dispatches Cabinet members to sell infrastructure plan On The Money: Treasury creates hub to fight climate change | Manchin throws support behind union-backed PRO Act | Consumer bureau rolls out rule to bolster CDC eviction ban MORE (D-W.Va.). And it has the support of Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanHouse votes to extend ban on fentanyl-like substances Schumer lays groundwork for future filibuster reform To encourage innovation, Congress should pass two bills protecting important R&D tax provision MORE (N.H.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThis week: Democrats move on DC statehood Lobbying world The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's infrastructure plan triggers definition debate MORE (Mont.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults now eligible for COVID vaccines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults can get vaccine; decision Friday on J&J vax Biden to hold second meeting with bipartisan lawmakers on infrastructure MORE (N.H.), John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperHarris casts tiebreaking vote to advance Biden nominee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP draws line on taxes; nation braces for Chauvin verdict The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults now eligible for COVID vaccines MORE (Colo.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' Manchin throws support behind union-backed PRO Act New US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations MORE (Va.), Mark KellyMark KellyConservative House members call on Senate to oppose ATF nominee House Democrats eye passing DC statehood bill for second time Manchin throws support behind union-backed PRO Act MORE (Ariz.) and Independent Sen. Angus KingAngus KingSenate confirms SEC chief Gensler to full five-year term Manchin throws support behind union-backed PRO Act The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults now eligible for COVID vaccines MORE (Maine), who caucuses with Democrats.

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GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate locks in hate crimes deal, setting up Thursday passage Bipartisan group of senators holds immigration talks amid border surge Senate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban MORE (Maine), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanHarris casts tiebreaking vote to advance Biden nominee The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After historic verdict, Chauvin led away in handcuffs How to save the Amazon rainforest MORE (Ohio), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoSenate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Sights and sounds after Chauvin conviction The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After historic verdict, Chauvin led away in handcuffs MORE (W.Va.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisBipartisan Senate proposal would grant million to minority businesses Biden's gun control push poses danger for midterms The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings MORE (N.C.), Bill CassidyBill CassidySenate GOP crafts outlines for infrastructure counter proposal Bottom line Calls grow for national paid family leave amid pandemic MORE (La.), Mike RoundsMike RoundsSenate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban Senate confirms SEC chief Gensler to full five-year term Congress looks to rein in Biden's war powers MORE (S.D.) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneySenate panel greenlights sweeping China policy bill The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Tensions rise as U.S. waits for Derek Chauvin verdict Mark Halperin hired by bipartisan policy group No Labels MORE (Utah) are also supporting the amendment.

The measure doesn't specify how the next round of checks to be better targeted.

But many of the same senators are in the GOP group of 10 that met with Biden on Monday night to discuss their $618 billion coronavirus proposal. They sent Biden a letter on Thursday where they highlighted concerns about the phase-out structure of the checks.

"Our goal is to target those direct payments to families with the greatest needs. As we expressed at our meeting, we do not believe that families making up to $300,000 per year need these direct payments, which they would have received under the CASH Act passed by the House of Representatives last December and which is currently included in your proposal," the Republicans wrote.

"We want to help struggling lower- and middle-income families as well as boost the economy; better targeting the direct payments would accomplish both goals," they added.

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GOP Sens. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSenate locks in hate crimes deal, setting up Thursday passage Congress can help Americans living with disabilities by passing the ABLE Age Adjustment Act Senate aims to pass anti-Asian hate crimes bill this week MORE (Kansas) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungHillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech Lawmakers reintroduce bill to invest billions to compete with China in tech 'Building Back Better' requires a new approach to US science and technology MORE (Ind.) are part of the group that met with Biden, but are not formal co-sponsors of the amendment.

Tester told reporters that they left the measure open-ended to try to generate support for the idea more broadly.

"I guess that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It depends who you want to talk to. But I think the point of the amendment is it's negotiable so we can try to get some folks on board," Tester said.

Biden's proposal would offer a $1,400 direct payment. It doesn't specify when the payments would start to be phased down, but previous rounds of direct stimulus checks have started to phase out at an income level of $75,000 for individuals.

Senators expressed bipartisan concern late last year at a House proposal that would change the amount of the stimulus check from $600, the amount of the latest direct assistance payment, to $1,400 but without changing the phase-out structure of the checks. That would have resulted in higher earners who had not been eligible for a check under the $600-proposal to get some payment under the $1,400 proposal.

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Senators have been discussing making changes to the phase-out structure of the next round of stimulus checks amid broader concern that high-income earners would be eligible for payments unless Congress makes changes.

"I happen to agree that the Mnuchin formula on the cash payments should be revisited. The outcome of that Mnuchin formula was indefensible. It came through families in higher income categories. That wasn't the reason for the cash payments, to give already wealthy people some more money to invest in stocks. And so yes, I would be open to that," Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinCornyn, Sinema to introduce bill aimed at addressing border surge Harris casts tiebreaking vote to advance Biden nominee Bipartisan group of senators holds immigration talks amid border surge MORE (D-Ill.) told reporters late last week, referring to former Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinDemocrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer Yellen provides signature for paper currency Biden's name will not appear on stimulus checks, White House says MORE.

But the amendment is likely to get some pushback.

Sen. Jon OssoffJon OssoffThis week: Democrats move on DC statehood Warnock raises nearly M since January victory Wall Street spent .9B on campaigns, lobbying in 2020 election: study MORE (D-Ga.), who made the stimulus checks a key message in his recent Senate campaign, said he wouldn't support the Manchin-Collins amendment.

"I'm advocating that we go big and that we deliver as much direct relief to the people as we can," he told reporters.

Members of the bipartisan group are also proposing an amendment signaling they don't want the federal unemployment benefit to be above $300 per week. Biden's plan puts the federal unemployment benefit at $400 per week.

Warner, Hickenlooper and King, who co-sponsored the amendment on more-targeted checks, did not sign onto the one on the unemployment benefit. Young, who did not sign onto the checks amendment, did sign onto the unemployment proposal.

Both amendments are nonbinding, meaning they don't have the force of law even if they are added to the budget resolution currently being debated.