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On The Money: Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill | Stocks sink after Powell fails to appease jittery traders | February jobs report to provide first measure of Biden economy

On The Money: Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill | Stocks sink after Powell fails to appease jittery traders | February jobs report to provide first measure of Biden economy
© Greg Nash

Happy Thursday and welcome back to On The Money, where we’ll never make you sit through a 10-hour recitation of legislative text. I’m Sylvan Lane, and here’s your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

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THE BIG DEAL—Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill: Senate Democrats voted on Thursday to take up a sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus bill, teeing off what's expected to be a marathon session to pass the legislation. 

The Senate voted 50-50 to proceed to the coronavirus relief legislation, with Vice President Harris breaking the tie to advance the bill. 

“The Senate is going to move forward with the bill. No matter how long it takes, the Senate is going to stay in session to finish the bill this week,” Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHolder, Yates lead letter backing Biden pick for Civil Rights Division at DOJ Capitol Police officer killed in car attack lies in honor in Capitol Rotunda Rep. Andy Kim on Asian hate: 'I've never felt this level of fear' MORE (D-N.Y.) said from the Senate floor on Thursday ahead of the vote. The Hill’s Jordain Carney has the latest here.

The state of play: 

What’s different from the House’s version: The Senate's bill largely reflects the version passed by the House with a few exceptions: 

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  • The Senate's version of the coronavirus bill strips out language increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour and lowers the cutoff for receiving stimulus checks to $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for couples.
  • A Senate Democratic aide said on Thursday that the bill also provides $510 million for FEMA homeless shelter providers, increases the total amount of Amtrak relief funding by $200 million and places "new guardrails" on the $350 billion for state and local governments.

What happens next: After the reading, the Senate still faces up to 20 hours of debate before it could start a marathon session known as vote-a-rama, where any senator who wants to force a vote on an amendment will be able to. If you have a Senate reporter or staffer in your life, get them some coffee and snacks. 

The bill will eventually head to the House after it passes the Senate. While some progressives are peeved about changes to stimulus check levels, they say it won’t be a dealbreaker. The Hill’s Cristina Marcos tells us more about that dynamic here.

LEADING THE DAY

Stocks sink after Powell fails to appease jittery traders: Stocks took heavy losses Thursday after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank would not hike interest rates for only a temporary rise in inflation.

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed with a loss of nearly 350 points Thursday, falling 1.1 percent. The Nasdaq composite fell 2.1 percent, wiping out its 2021 gains, and the S&P 500 fell 1.3 percent.
  • The yield on a 10-year Treasury bond also rose to 1.54 percent Thursday, a sign of rising inflation fears on Wall Street.

So what happened? In a nutshell, Powell said what he’s been saying for months when Wall Street wanted to hear something different.

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  • The stock market has been volatile for several weeks amid growing concern among some traders about the Fed’s approach to inflation as the U.S. appears to be nearing the end of the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • Inflation itself, however, remains well below the Fed’s target of 2 percent and Powell has welcomed the increase in rates as a sign of confidence in the U.S. economy’s eventual recovery from the coronavirus recession.

Despite pressure from markets, the Fed chief insisted Thursday that while inflation might rise temporarily, it would not be persistent enough to warrant an interest rate hike.

“We expect that as the economy reopens and hopefully picks up, we will see inflation move up through base effects,” Powell said during a Wall Street Journal virtual event. “That could create some upward pressure on prices.” I wrap it all up here.

Read more: Inflation debate heats up over Biden relief bill

February jobs report to provide first measure of Biden economy: The first monthly jobs report covering the Biden presidency will be released Friday morning as congressional Democrats race to pass a massive economic relief package.

Economists expect the February jobs report to show a modest rebound in hiring as progress against COVID-19 boosted confidence in a quicker end to the pandemic. Analysts estimate that U.S. employers added 180,000 jobs last month — a pace that’s not nearly fast enough to quickly fill the hole left by COVID-19, but better than January’s meager addition of 49,000 jobs.

“The scope for a brisk acceleration is clear, though we expect the biggest gains to come later in the spring as the reopening broadens,” wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, in a Thursday preview. I’ll tell you what to expect here.

ON TAP TOMORROW:

  • The Labor Department releases the February jobs report at 8:30 a.m.

GOOD TO KNOW

ODDS AND ENDS