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Senate Democrats still finishing their Covid relief bill as time runs out this week

Senate Democrats are down to the wire.In a furious last-minute push, Democrats are scrambling to put their final touches on...

Posted: Mar 3, 2021 9:49 AM
Updated: Mar 3, 2021 9:50 AM

Senate Democrats are down to the wire.

In a furious last-minute push, Democrats are scrambling to put their final touches on a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill that the entire caucus will have to support, a task that has proven difficult in the final hours of negotiations and revealed the uphill climb the party will have in moving Biden's agenda in the future.

Where things stand

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer -- in coordination with key committee chairs -- has been working around the clock to finalize the bill text. As of Wednesday morning, it still is not finished. Progressives and moderates are still trying to extract concessions and make changes to the bill that passed, and leadership was still waiting as of late Tuesday night for some smaller rulings from the Senate's parliamentarian, according to sources.

As a result, legislative counsel has been drafting multiple iterations of the bill so that Democrats will be ready to go when decisions are finally made. If it feels a little rushed, a little last minute -- welcome to Congress.

A timing note

It's possible this goes into the weekend if leadership gets delayed in bringing a bill to the floor Wednesday. It's important to remember that whatever Schumer lays down on the floor can still be changed, and CNN reports that is certainly something that is possible. But it's also an option to wait to begin debate until the final product is ready to go to the floor. If they wait, it delays the 20 hours of debate and the eventual vote-a-rama we expected to begin Thursday night.

The sticking points

Moderate Democrats, in their meeting with Biden on Monday, made it clear they wanted a few things in this final package. They wanted more money for broadband, an extension of some small business tax credits and money for rural hospitals. They also wanted to make the $1,400 stimulus payments more targeted and lower the weekly federal unemployment benefits to $300 instead of $400.

Biden signaled an openness to some changes on the funding side, but he also made it known that lawmakers needed to work this out with their leadership. He wasn't going to get involved. That's been precisely what has been going on the last 24 hours. It's also why Biden didn't get into details of what he would or wouldn't support in Tuesday's call rallying Democrats to stay united in the vote-a-rama ahead.

White House legislative affairs has been instrumental in this working through last-minute sticking points with leadership and playing go between with member offices. The President himself has been letting the caucus legislate and staying focused on the bigger picture: actually passing something at the end of the week.

"Joe is put in a hard position because he's got people beating up on him all across the board," Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said Tuesday when asked about Biden's role. "He is more inclined to let the process work and I appreciate that."

Aides close to the process tell CNN that it's not entirely finished yet, but the expectation is that there will be additional funding for broadband infrastructure in the bill. Talks about unemployment insurance are still ongoing. One of the challenges of increasing any funding streams is that every single committee only has so much money they can spend under the reconciliation instructions. If you go over, you lose your ability to pass this bill with 51 votes. It's part of why even simple adds take time here.

The progressive factor

A lot of attention over the last four weeks has been paid to moderates and what they want in this bill, but it's important to keep in mind that progressives' votes matter just as much here, especially in the House of Representatives, where Pelosi has just a three-vote margin right now. Everything that is changed in the Senate bill will again face scrutiny in the House when it comes up for a vote there next week and there are certain levers that you could pull in the Senate that wouldn't be able to land in the House.

Rather than ping ponging this bill back and forth, leadership in the House and Senate are checking in regularly to ensure nothing that is changed in the Senate will ultimately disrupt the bill's ability to pass in the House.

CNN reported Tuesday on how progressives are still angry over the removal of the minimum wage hike. In addition, progressives are also watching very carefully what happens with unemployment insurance in the Senate. Lowering the threshold from $400 to $300 is a nonstarter for many of them, and it's why it's a conundrum for Senate leaders here. While they may not be making the kinds of last-minute asks that moderates are, progressives have worked very hard behind the scenes in the Senate to try and keep the House bill intact as it's moved through the Senate and major changes on the unemployment benefit of relief check side will spell trouble for many of them.

The vote-a-rama factor

Biden's message Tuesday was clear. As CNN's Manu Raju reported, Biden urged unity on the series of poison pill amendments slated to come to the floor as part of the budget vote-a-rama, and CNN has been told that Schumer has urged the same. But that is going to be torturous for a handful of moderates who are going to be facing a series of messaging votes on everything from whether undocumented immigrants should be eligible for stimulus checks to whether they support allowing the Keystone XL pipeline to move forward. Republicans' strategy here is to make the next 48 hours as difficult politically as they possible can for Democrats. And while Schumer has urged Democrats not to vote for a single GOP amendment, it's not clear Democrats are going to be able to abide by that request.

The Sanders' minimum wage amendment is causing heartache

Multiple Democratic aides have lamented in recent days that Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders' minimum wage amendment is flying in the face of the unity that leadership is urging. The vote Democrats are going to have to take on whether they support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour puts members in a difficult position for a few reasons. First, it forces moderates to decide whether they want a provision the Senate parliamentarian already ruled wasn't compliant in the bill. Second, it's a tough vote that isn't coming from a Republican trying to run campaign ads against you -- it's coming from Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats and aides argued is supposed to be on their team.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 338079

Reported Deaths: 7523
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23409440
DeSoto23069280
Harrison20064328
Rankin15119290
Jackson14743251
Madison10806227
Lee10568179
Jones8864169
Forrest8408159
Lauderdale7684243
Lowndes6917151
Lamar683789
Lafayette6502124
Washington5551139
Pearl River5060150
Bolivar4923134
Oktibbeha484798
Panola4739112
Warren4690127
Marshall4670106
Pontotoc442873
Monroe4293137
Union429179
Neshoba4232181
Hancock417788
Lincoln4148116
Pike3605113
Leflore3587125
Tate351488
Alcorn346474
Sunflower344994
Adams338488
Scott336676
Yazoo335673
Simpson319290
Copiah319068
Itawamba312480
Coahoma311585
Tippah300568
Prentiss295063
Covington287183
Marion281780
Leake281575
Wayne274643
Grenada267588
George266251
Newton258964
Tishomingo238070
Winston236284
Jasper227548
Attala223373
Stone219437
Chickasaw217560
Holmes197674
Clay194654
Clarke184480
Tallahatchie182742
Calhoun179432
Smith177535
Yalobusha170240
Walthall144448
Lawrence140026
Greene137634
Amite135643
Noxubee134235
Perry132438
Montgomery131544
Carroll125431
Webster119132
Jefferson Davis114234
Tunica113227
Benton105925
Claiborne104831
Kemper101429
Humphreys99833
Franklin86723
Quitman84319
Choctaw81819
Wilkinson76532
Jefferson70428
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 574737

Reported Deaths: 11492
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson839571589
Mobile46611857
Madison36938532
Tuscaloosa26841465
Shelby26769255
Montgomery25853624
Baldwin24213326
Lee16897181
Calhoun15210332
Morgan14990289
Etowah14721369
Marshall12855235
Houston11661292
Elmore10727217
St. Clair10587250
Limestone10535158
Cullman10323204
Lauderdale10044253
DeKalb9335191
Talladega8797187
Walker7659286
Autauga7456114
Jackson7295117
Blount7233139
Colbert6614142
Coffee6117131
Dale5393117
Russell467742
Chilton4666117
Covington4623125
Franklin447281
Tallapoosa4420157
Escambia425282
Chambers3880125
Dallas3707163
Clarke366462
Marion3413106
Pike326979
Lawrence3211101
Winston293972
Bibb282965
Geneva274283
Marengo259067
Barbour245161
Pickens239662
Butler237672
Hale232378
Fayette225064
Henry206645
Randolph196144
Monroe195041
Cherokee194548
Washington179339
Macon168352
Crenshaw165058
Clay163659
Cleburne159945
Lamar149738
Lowndes144854
Wilcox129831
Bullock126042
Conecuh119530
Coosa116729
Perry109928
Sumter108732
Greene98336
Choctaw63925
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Partly Cloudy
79° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 77°
Feels Like: 83°
Columbus
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 84°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
75° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 75°
Starkville
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 84°
Thursday will be another very hot and very humid day across Mississippi and Alabama. Many areas will be well above 100 degrees with the heat index, some even as high as 120 degrees in the Delta of Mississippi.
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