Democrats push Biden to include recurring payments in recovery package

A group of Democratic senators is urging President BidenJoe BidenFirst lady leaves Walter Reed after foot procedure Biden backs effort to include immigration in budget package MyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News MORE to include recurring direct payments for some Americans in his forthcoming coronavirus recovery plan.

A letter spearheaded by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats release data showing increase in 'mega-IRA' accounts Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Jan. 6 probe, infrastructure to dominate week MORE (D-Ore.) calls for Biden’s forthcoming Build Back Better proposal to fund recurring direct payments and automatic unemployment insurance extensions that are tied to economic conditions. That would be on top of the one-time payments of $1,400 per person that are included in the $1.9 trillion relief package the House passed last week.

The letter has attracted at least nine other signatories, including the chairs of the Senate’s three major financial committees, and will be circulated on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to garner further support. The letter does not specify a dollar amount for the recurring payments. 

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“We urge you to include recurring direct payments and automatic unemployment insurance extensions tied to economic conditions in your Build Back Better long-term economic plan,” states the letter, text of which was obtained by The Hill. “This crisis is far from over, and families deserve certainty that they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. Families should not be at the mercy of constantly-shifting legislative timelines and ad hoc solutions.” 

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownTop Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure Schumer's moment to transform transit and deepen democracy Democrats ramp up pressure for infrastructure deal amid time crunch MORE (D-Ohio) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats say they have the votes to advance .5T budget measure Millennial momentum means trouble for the GOP Briahna Joy Gray: White House thinks extending student loan pause is a 'bad look' MORE (I-Vt.) along with Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenPelosi disputes Biden's power to forgive student loans Warren hits the airwaves for Newsom ahead of recall election Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action MORE (D-Mass.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyHuman rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action Nearly 140 Democrats urge EPA to 'promptly' allow California to set its own vehicle pollution standards Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines MORE (D-Mass.), Cory BookerCory BookerHuman rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer MORE (D-N.J.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandTreat broadband as infrastructure and we have a chance to get it right House panel looks to help military sexual assault survivors To make energy green, remove red tape MORE (D-N.Y.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetLawmakers can't reconcile weakening the SALT cap with progressive goals How Sen. Graham can help fix the labor shortage with commonsense immigration reform For true American prosperity, make the child tax credit permanent MORE (D-Colo.), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinManaging the US dollar to pay for congressional infrastructure plans Duckworth, Pressley introduce bill to provide paid family leave for those who experience miscarriage Senate Democrats call for Medicaid-like plan to cover non-expansion states MORE (D-Wis.) and Alex PadillaAlex PadillaBiden backs effort to include immigration in budget package Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Nearly 140 Democrats urge EPA to 'promptly' allow California to set its own vehicle pollution standards MORE (D-Calif.) have all signed their names to the letter.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee is also expected to launch an effort Tuesday allowing the public to sign on in support of the effort. 

The push comes days after Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package passed the House in a largely party-line vote, with two Democrats breaking to oppose the bill with Republicans. The Senate is taking up the legislation this week, after progressives were dealt a major blow when the chamber's parliamentarian ruled that a minimum wage hike to $15 could not be included in the package that Democrats are expected to pass using budget reconciliation. 

Biden’s relief package includes funding for $1,400 direct payments to Americans who qualify based on their incomes. It also would extend federal unemployment benefits through the end of August and provide a $400 weekly boost to benefits from mid-March through the end of August.

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Progressives in Congress have long been pushing for recurring direct payments, and Wyden’s leadership on the new letter is significant because his committee has jurisdiction over tax policy. Wyden has long supported tying unemployment benefits to economic conditions.

A proposal that would make direct payments recurring would gain support from progressives but almost certainly run into opposition from not only Republicans but also more moderate Democrats, like Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinTop Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Democrats say they have the votes to advance .5T budget measure MORE (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.). Republicans and some centrist Democrats have said they want to target direct payments to lower-income households.

The letter circulated by Wyden argues that recurring payments and enhanced unemployment insurance are among the most effective forms of relief for the American public during the pandemic. It also notes the popularity of recurring direct payments among the American public and cites a recent letter signed by 156 economists calling for these “automatic stabilizers” until the economy recovers.   

“As you have said, now is the time for boldness. As you prepare your Build Back Better plan for long-term economic recovery, know that we are ready to work with you in support of recurring direct checks and extended unemployment insurance benefits to support Americans who are still struggling during the pandemic,” the letter states. 

Biden has not yet issued details of his recovery package, which he initially planned to unveil in February, though it’s expected to contain substantial funding for infrastructure. The White House says that he will detail his next package after the relief bill is passed.

“I don’t expect that the president will be laying out the next stage of his agenda until after we get the American rescue plan passed,” White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOn The Money: Biden asks Congress to extend eviction ban with days until expiration | Economic growth rose to 6.5 percent annual rate in second quarter Biden calls on Congress to extend eviction ban with days until expiration Why in the world are White House reporters being told to mask up again? MORE said Monday when asked about plans to address a joint session of Congress. “We certainly hope we will do that in the coming weeks.” 

Biden has sought Republican lawmakers’ support for his relief package — without success — and would likely do so with his rescue package. Without some Republicans supporting his next proposal, Democrats could use reconciliation again to pass it but that would require every Democrat in the Senate supporting the measure.