Senate Democrats appear to be on track to pass a $1.9 trillion stimulus package without Republican support as all 50 senators in the Democratic caucus approved a “motion to proceed” resolution on Tuesday. The resolution allows Democrats to pass the stimulus bill through a process known as budget reconciliation.
The vote was the first of several steps needed in order for the bill, which includes $1,400 stimulus checks for many Americans, to be signed by President Joe Biden.
The resolution passed by a 50-49 margin, with one GOP member not present.
Budget reconciliation was previously used by Republicans who had the majority as a way to maneuver around the filibuster, which ordinarily would require 60 senators to call for a vote.
Now, Democrats only need a simply majority to pass a stimulus bill. Republicans attempted to use the budget reconciliation process in 2017 to pass a “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act. The vote, however, failed by a single vote after Sen. John McCain cast the deciding vote.
Republicans also used budget reconciliation to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, otherwise known as the “Trump Tax Cuts.”
Without any GOP support, Democrats would be forced to use budget reconciliation, which cannot be filibustered. Senate rules say through reconciliation, certain committees can change spending, revenues, or deficits by specific amounts. Each committee writes a bill to achieve its target, and if more than one committee is told to act, the Budget Committee puts the bills together into one big bill, according to Senate rules.
There were some questions heading into Tuesday’s vote on how several moderate Democrats, namely Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, would vote. Given their approval of the motion to proceed, it appears Democrats are poised to pass the President Joe Biden-backed bill.
The vote comes one day after Biden met with 10 Republican senators who were hoping Biden would consider a much smaller, more targeted proposal. The Republicans’ offer costs one-third what the Democrats’ proposal totals.
The White House’s response to the Republicans’ bid was there is greater risk in doing too little than doing too much, despite the price tag.
"While there were areas of agreement, the President also reiterated his view that Congress must respond boldly and urgently, and noted many areas which the Republican senators' proposal does not address," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. "He reiterated that while he is hopeful that the Rescue Plan can pass with bipartisan support, a reconciliation package is a path to achieve that end. The President also made clear that the American Rescue Plan was carefully designed to meet the stakes of this moment, and any changes in it cannot leave the nation short of its pressing needs."
While the Democrats' plan calls on providing full stimulus checks to those making less than $75,000 a year, the 10 Republicans want to cap $1,000 stimulus checks for those making $40,000 per year.
Democrats are also calling on $400 unemployment supplements through the end of September. The supplements are in addition to state benefits.