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: 313166

Reported Deaths: 7228
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21496257
Hinds20294414
Harrison17814309
Rankin13573278
Jackson13411246
Madison10066217
Lee9962173
Jones8364163
Forrest7649152
Lauderdale7181240
Lowndes6370145
Lamar621686
Lafayette6171118
Washington5323133
Bolivar4797132
Oktibbeha461498
Panola4561105
Pearl River4499145
Marshall4397103
Warren4380121
Pontotoc419572
Monroe4100133
Union409076
Neshoba4026176
Lincoln3950110
Hancock377786
Leflore3487125
Sunflower335790
Tate332484
Pike3301105
Scott315373
Alcorn311968
Yazoo310769
Itawamba299477
Copiah296465
Simpson294788
Coahoma294379
Tippah287768
Prentiss279560
Adams269582
Marion268880
Leake266273
Wayne262341
Grenada260386
Covington256381
George246848
Newton246061
Winston226881
Tishomingo225967
Jasper220848
Attala214173
Chickasaw207157
Holmes188673
Clay184754
Stone182033
Tallahatchie178140
Clarke177879
Calhoun170132
Yalobusha163337
Smith162234
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125938
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104826
Claiborne102230
Benton99125
Humphreys96133
Kemper95428
Franklin83623
Quitman80216
Choctaw76118
Wilkinson66930
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50317
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530988

Reported Deaths: 10978
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson765291522
Mobile40971804
Madison34751503
Tuscaloosa25775452
Montgomery24329589
Shelby23431249
Baldwin21131308
Lee15884171
Calhoun14501314
Morgan14293279
Etowah13831353
Marshall12222223
Houston10567281
Elmore10061205
Limestone9960151
Cullman9664193
St. Clair9655243
Lauderdale9424241
DeKalb8830186
Talladega8223176
Walker7235277
Autauga6920108
Jackson6810112
Blount6660137
Colbert6298134
Coffee5511119
Dale4831111
Russell441138
Chilton4290112
Franklin425782
Covington4121118
Tallapoosa4027152
Escambia393376
Chambers3563123
Dallas3551151
Clarke351061
Marion3118101
Pike310877
Lawrence300298
Winston274472
Bibb260764
Geneva249977
Marengo249764
Pickens234461
Barbour230857
Hale222977
Butler215969
Fayette212362
Henry188744
Cherokee184845
Randolph180241
Monroe177440
Washington167339
Macon159150
Clay156256
Crenshaw152257
Cleburne148941
Lamar142535
Lowndes138853
Wilcox127130
Bullock123041
Conecuh110529
Perry107726
Coosa107228
Sumter104532
Greene92334
Choctaw60624
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