Joe Biden backs plan to limit number of Americans who will get $1,400 stimulus checks in Covid-19 relief bill

Under a revised Senate plan, which according to observers has been made to accommodate centrist voices, Americans making more than $80k will not get anything


                            Joe Biden backs plan to limit number of Americans who will get $1,400 stimulus checks in Covid-19 relief bill
According to an estimate, President Joe Biden's change in plan could result in nearly 12 million people losing the relief checks (Getty Images)

The White House on Wednesday, March 4, indicated that President Joe Biden is cutting off stimulus checks to those Americans who make more than $80,000. The news was confirmed by Press Secretary Jen Psaki who said the Democratic president wanted to give full $1,400 to those Americans who make $75,000 but nothing to those who earn over $80,000. Aso couples who make more than $160,000 have been excluded.

According to Psaki, the president is “comfortable with where the negotiations stand”. The new plan would cut the direct payment income caps approved by the House. Under its bill, individuals making up to $100,000 (and those earning jointly upto $200,000) would have got some amount.

CNBC News cited a rough estimate from Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, Washington DC, who said eight million people who would have received payments under the House bill would lose them under the Senate plan. More people would also receive smaller amounts than they would have got under the House plan, he added.

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According to Gleckman, the changes would save about $15 billion in the Covid-19 relief bill worth almost $2 trillion. According to another estimate, nearly 12 million people could lose the relief checks because of the change in the plan.

President Joe Biden during the Celebrating America program at the Lincoln Memorial on January 20, 2021, in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

“The changes come as moderate Senate Democrats call to limit the scope of the checks included in the legislation. To pass the relief bill under budget reconciliation, party leaders cannot lose a single vote among the 50 members of the caucus. Democrats are using the process that enables legislation to pass with a simple majority as Republicans question the need for more spending to boost the economy,” the CNBC report added.

Eligibility for making the payments became a concern among the Democrats as they tried to pass the relief package by a wafer-thin margin without Republican support. The Dems and GOP are tied at 50-50 in the Senate with the blue party having the edge by virtue of the tie-breaking vote that Vice President Kamala Harris has and hence, it has to keep all its members on board in order to bag a simple majority.

However, with the party being split between centrist and progressive forces, getting to see all in agreement is something easier said than done. Disagreements within the party on the issue could have jeopardized its plans to get the bill passed in the Senate by the weekend and reach Biden’s desk before the expiry of the unemployment aid programs on March 14. The House, dominated by the Dems, is expected to approve the upper chamber’s version of the bill soon. 

New York Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  (Getty Images)

An own goal, says AOC

The change in the Senate bill irked some progressive Democrats in the House like New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who slammed the Biden administration tweeting: “Conservative Dems have fought so the Biden admin sends fewer & less generous relief checks than the Trump admin did.”

“It’s a move that makes little-to-no political or economic sense, and targets an element of relief that is most tangibly felt by everyday people. An own-goal,” she wrote.



 

West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who is also known to be a swing vote, had initially proposed for full checks to go to the adults who make $50,000 or less and $75,000 representing the ceiling. Progressive senators like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren called for recurring relief checks to be included in future relief packages.

Psaki, meanwhile, said Biden was hopeful that “Democrats of all political backgrounds” could get behind the current arrangement. The original $1,200 stimulus checks were given to adults who made under $75,000 but those adults who made up to $99,000 were also eligible to receive some money.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a daily press briefing at the White House on January 25, 2021, in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

Both Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump supported the stimulus checks. The latter even almost forced a government shutdown during his final weeks in office when the bill that was passed by Congress only featured checks of $600. The former president wanted the people of America to receive checks of $2,000 instead and found himself on the same page with a number of prominent Democrats including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is otherwise one of his staunchest critics. 

When Biden announced the $1.9 trillion package in January, he backed the idea of $1,400 checks so that with $600, Americans making $75,000 or less could get $2,000. Psaki said on Wednesday, March 3, that as long as the checks’ amount is concerned, Biden has kept his promise.

According to the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, DC: "The Senate bill would benefit 86 percent of adults and 85 percent of children, compared to 91 percent of adults and 90 percent of children under the House-passed bill. But among the bottom 60 percent of Americans, those who most need help, both versions of the proposal would benefit 100 percent of adults and children."

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