Overnight Finance

On The Money: Democrats deals to bolster support for relief bill | Biden tries to keep Democrats together | Retailers fear a return of the mask wars

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THE BIG DEAL-Democrats cut deals to bolster support for relief bill: Democrats are trying to lock down support for a sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package in the face of increasing GOP opposition.

Senate Democrats are preparing to unveil a COVID-19 measure that will largely mirror the House-passed bill, but with a few significant changes as they cut deals to solidify support within their caucus.

  • The Senate version is expected to strip out language hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour after the parliamentarian ruled that it doesn't comply with arcane rules that govern what can be in the bill. 
  • In a significant win for a small group of moderates, it will also lower the cutoff for qualifying for a stimulus check.
  • Democrats might still try to extend the weekly jobless payments from August into September before the bill passes the Senate, arguing the next unemployment cliff shouldn't be in the middle of a congressional recess.

Why it happened: The decision to make changes comes after weeks of behind-the-scenes talks among Senate Democrats about how to craft a bill that would satisfy a wide-ranging caucus that spans from conservative Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) to progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

The Hill's Jordain Carney breaks down the changes here.

The fallout: Liberal House Democrats are frustrated with the Senate's move to reduce eligibility for stimulus checks in a COVID-19 relief package, but say they won't block the legislation when it returns to the lower chamber for a vote.

"What we did over here was something that I wish the Senate would just accept. But they have their own realities that they have to deal with," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), the chairman of the House Rules Committee. "It's not what I would have preferred, but we have to get this package done." The Hill's Mike Lillis has more from House Democrats here.

Biden tries to keep Democrats together: As the party mulls changes to the bill,  Biden told House Democrats during a virtual meeting that passing the coronavirus relief bill would give them momentum to accomplish other policy items and restore public trust in government given the popularity of the legislation shown in polls.

"Staying unified as we complete this process to pass the American Rescue Plan won't just make a difference in our fight against COVID-19 and our efforts to rebuild the economy, it will also show the American people we are capable of coming together for what matters most to them," Biden said. The Hill's Morgan Chalfant takes us there.

Read more on the fight over COVID-19 relief:

  • The Senate won't take up its coronavirus relief bill until Thursday, as Democrats wait to get the green light that the legislation complies with arcane budget rules.  
  • Republican lawmakers are celebrating a decision by the Senate parliamentarian to strike from the coronavirus relief package a $100 million extension of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system outside San Francisco-a top Pelosi priority.
  • Senate Democrats' proposed changes to the cutoffs for stimulus checks would result in up to 16 million people no longer receiving payments compared to the bill passed by the House, according to analysts.

LEADING THE DAY

Retailers fear a return of the mask wars: Retailers and grocery stores are fearing a resurgence of mask backlash from earlier in the pandemic as Texas and other states start scaling back coronavirus restrictions.

  • Nationwide chains that have COVID-19 rules in place for both employees and customers are worried about the confusion and conflict to ensue as some states lift mask mandates for indoor spaces but stores keep them in place.
  • Industry groups and major companies with operations in Texas are already saying they plan to stick with their own coronavirus mitigation measures and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regardless of changes at the state level.

"Relaxing common-sense, non-intrusive safety protocols like wearing masks is a mistake," said Jason Brewer, executive vice president of communications and state affairs at the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA). "Going backwards on safety measures will unfairly put retail employees back in the role of enforcing guidelines still recommended by the CDC and other public health advocates."

The Hill's Alex Gangitano has more here.

Throwback: While some COVID-19 prevention measures like capacity limits and business closures have undeniable economic side effects, business groups and economists have pleaded with Americans to mask up to keep the economy going.

  • The costs of widespread mask adoption are considerably less than those of business closures, stay-at-home orders and general fear of contracting the virus, economists say.
  • Business groups have also urged states to impose and enforce mandates to protect their employees from both the virus and angry customers that may not care about a store's own restrictions.

Read more: Biden slams Texas, Mississippi for lifting coronavirus restrictions: 'Neanderthal thinking'

House Democratic leaders back Shalanda Young for OMB after Tanden withdrawal: House Democratic leaders on Wednesday threw their support behind Shalanda Young to head the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a day after Neera Tanden withdrew her nomination.

"We have worked closely with [Young] for several years and highly recommend her for her intellect, her deep expertise on the federal budget and her determination to ensure that our budget reflects our values as a nation," Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said in a joint statement.

"Her leadership at the OMB would be historic and would send a strong message that this Administration is eager to work in close coordination with Members of Congress to craft budgets that meet the challenges of our time and can secure broad, bipartisan support," they wrote.

Young, who is President Biden's nominee to be deputy director of OMB, spent the past 14 years as a staffer on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, the lower chamber's panel in charge of spending bills.

The background: Young, Biden's nominee to be deputy director of OMB, spent the past 14 years as a staffer on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which controls spending bills in the lower chamber.

Why the letter is eye-catching: Lawmakers don't usually exert their influence over potential nominations in public, and when they do, it's usually more subtle. But the letter from the top three House Democratic leaders is remarkably direct, particularly since only senators vote for nominations.

The letter is the culmination of weeks of support for Young from House Democrats and opened the floodgates to a lot of other endorsements, assembled here by The Hill's Scott Wong.

Read more: Here's who Biden is now considering for budget chief

 

ON TAP TOMORROW:

  • The Senate Banking Committee holds a hearing entitled "Wall Street vs. Workers: How the Financial System Hurts Workers and Widens the Racial Wealth Gap" at 10:15 a.m.
  • The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee holds a confirmation hearing on the nominations of Shalanda Young to be deputy OMB director and Jason Miller to be OMB deputy director for management at 10:15 a.m.

GOOD TO KNOW

  • The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday advanced two of President Biden's key economic nominees with strong bipartisan support, paving the way for smooth confirmations in the full Senate.
  • A bipartisan group of more than a dozen lawmakers on Wednesday introduced a bill banning members of Congress and senior staff from buying and selling stocks, most bonds and options contracts.
  • The Biden administration on Wednesday said that it still needs more time to determine how it plans to handle House Democrats' request for former President Trump's tax returns.
  • A new poll by Monmouth University shows that a majority of Americans support the federal government raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
  • Private payrolls grew 117,000 in February, according to ADP, a disappointing figure in the midst of an economic recovery, and well below what economists expected.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • IRS officials paid a record amount of interest on tax refunds last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and a decision to allow taxpayers extra time to file their tax returns, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
  • An effort by a California city to provide basic income payments to some 125 residents ended last month, with officials recording rising levels of full-time employment among the study's participants after one year.
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