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21 Senate Democrats press Biden to include recurring direct payments in infrastructure plan

21 Senate Democrats press Biden to include recurring direct payments in infrastructure plan
© Greg Nash

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech Overnight Energy: Biden will aim to cut US emissions in half by 2030 | Oil and gas leasing pause on public lands will last at least through June Senate Democrats introduce bill to reform energy tax credits MORE (D-Ore.) and 20 other Senate Democrats are calling on President BidenJoe BidenCornyn, Sinema to introduce bill aimed at addressing border surge Harris to travel to Northern Triangle region in June Biden expected to formally recognize Armenian Genocide: report MORE to include recurring direct payments to individuals and enhanced unemployment benefits for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic in his “Build Back Better” legislation, which the president plans to unveil Wednesday.

Wyden and his colleagues say the $1,400 direct stimulus checks included in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which Congress passed earlier this month, will only suffice for a few months and that Americans need more money to cover bills and other expenses.

“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,” the Democratic senators wrote in a letter to Biden. 

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“While we are pleased that the American Rescue Plan included a one-time direct payment and an extension of federal unemployment insurance programs, a single direct payment will not last long for most families,” they wrote.

They argue that another round of stimulus checks are needed because millions of people don’t qualify for unemployment insurance after seeing their work hours cut, switching to lower-paying jobs or leaving the workforce to care for relatives.

“Recurring direct payments have wide support from both the general public and economic experts,” they wrote.

They cited an Urban Institute study projecting that a single $1,200 direct payment combined with federal unemployment payments and state assistance could keep 12 million people out of poverty and a second direct payment could keep 6.3 million more people above the poverty line.

Wyden earlier this month circulated a similar letter, signed by nine other senators, calling for recurring direct payments and automatic insurance extensions and tying those benefits to economic conditions. 

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The fact that nearly half the Democratic caucus signed Wyden’s letter on Tuesday shows that support for recurring stimulus payments is getting stronger.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie SandersBernie SandersOn The Money: Yellen touts 'whole-of-economy' plan to fight climate change | Senate GOP adopts symbolic earmark ban, digs in on debt limit GOP lawmaker demands review over FBI saying baseball shooting was 'suicide by cop' House Dems to unveil drug pricing measure ahead of Biden package MORE (I-Vt.), Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownHouse Dems to unveil drug pricing measure ahead of Biden package Ma'Khia Bryant's TikToks go viral as alternative to body cam footage Sherrod Brown: Teenager killed in Columbus police shooting 'should be alive right now' MORE (D-Ohio), Senate Democratic Whip 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 (Ill.) and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenLawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' World passes 3 million coronavirus deaths Poll: 56 percent say wealth tax is part of solution to inequality MORE (D-Mass.) were among the Democrats who signed Tuesday’s letter.

Congress has already approved three rounds of direct payments: $1,200 checks in March 2020, $600 checks in December and $1,400 checks this month.

Democrats in favor of recurring stimulus checks while the economy continues to suffer from business closures and other restrictions argue it’s good policy and good politics.

A Politico-Morning Consult poll published earlier this month found that 75 percent of Americans, including 55 percent of Trump voters and 59 percent of Republicans, supported the American Rescue Plan, which included $1,400 checks for individuals earning up to $75,000. 

The senators on Tuesday cited polling data showing that people also strongly support recurring payments.

“Polling shows 65 percent of Americans support recurring cash payments 'for the duration of the pandemic.' This includes support from 54 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of independents. Economists support the idea too,” they wrote.

The lawmakers also warned that $300-per-week federal unemployment benefits will run out at the beginning of September, before the economy is expected to fully recover from the pandemic, creating a “cliff.” 

“We are worried about the cliff facing unemployed workers when the unemployment insurance extensions expire on September 6. 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,” they wrote to Biden. 

Morgan Chalfant contributed.