Senate Democrats negotiating changes to coronavirus bill

Senate Democrats are discussing potential changes to a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, saying they want to further target the House-passed legislation.

A group of Democrats met with President Biden on Monday to talk about the path forward on the legislation, which is expected to come to a vote on the Senate floor in a matter of days.

“We talked about the package and we talked about some … targeting, targeting dollars,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

Democrats have no room for error as they try to pass the bill in the Senate.

Because no Republicans are expected to support the coronavirus-relief legislation, that means Biden will need all 50 members of the Senate Democratic Conference to support the legislation in order to get it through the chamber.

The Senate is already expected to strip out language that would increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour after the chamber’s parliamentarian ruled that it doesn’t comply with budget rules governing what can be included in reconciliation, the process that Democrats are using to bypass a 60-vote filibuster.

But Democrats say they are also looking at other potential changes.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), viewed as a key vote, said senators were looking at trying to make sure the bill was “targeted” and that his staff was currently going through the text.

“We’re talking,” Manchin said about potential changes to individual stimulus checks or state and local government aid.

Manchin teamed up with a bipartisan group of senators to offer a nonbinding amendment during the budget resolution debate supportive of limiting the ability of high-income households to receive the checks. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who was a co-sponsor of the amendment, told reporters last week that she was having discussions with Democrats about the issue.

Manchin has also said that he believes the $350 billion included in the House bill for state and local governments is too high, predicting during a Fox News interview that the final number would be lower.

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said his focus was on looking at how the state and local aid money is going to be allocated.

“I believe there should be some guardrails on those funds,” King said.

Manchin, Tester and King were all in the White House meeting on Monday with Biden, which they described as more of a listening session as both the administration and the Senate plots next steps on the coronavirus relief bill.

Manchin, on Monday, also indicated that he supports a lower amount of enhanced weekly unemployment payments. The House bill includes $400 per week.

A bipartisan group of senators, led by Manchin, filed a nonbinding amendment to the budget resolution to cap the weekly unemployment payments at $300 per week but did not force a vote at the time.

Manchin, asked about the $400 per week amount, said he had been “very supportive” of $300 per week.

“We’re negotiating,” he added.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) indicated that he was in touch with members of the caucus, including the block of moderates.

“I have also seen that a number of the moderate members who have been discussing this issue … have indicated that they accept this effort, that we will prevail,” he said, asked if there were the votes to keep the unemployment payment at $400 per week.

Tags Angus King Joe Biden Joe Manchin Jon Tester Ron Wyden Susan Collins

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