Earlier this month, the House and Senate approved a fiscal 2021 budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 5), directing committees to use the budget reconciliation process to draft COVID-19 relief legislation consistent with President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The budget reconciliation process allows the Senate to advance spending and tax related legislation with a simple majority vote instead of the 60-vote threshold needed for most legislation.
During the week of February 8, a number of House committees advanced portions of the President’s plan along party lines. The bills include proposals to extend enhanced unemployment benefits, provide $1,400 stimulus checks, increase Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax credits, provide subsidies for COBRA coverage, increase funding for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), extend and modify tax credits for paid sick and family leave and employee retention, and increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025.
The relief package is expected to include nearly $1.9 trillion in emergency funding, including:
- $350 billion for state, tribal, and local governments;
- $220 billion for education and community support programs;
- $95.5 billion for transportation and infrastructure programs;
- $92.2 billion for public health programs;
- $75 billion for housing and community development programs;
- $50 billion for small business relief;
- $13.5 billion for veterans health care; and
- $10.4 billion for food and nutrition support programs.
The House Budget Committee and Rules Committee will meet in the coming days to combine the bills into one reconciliation package and set rules for consideration. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) informed lawmakers that the House could vote on the package as early as Friday, February 26.
Senate leaders are expected to skip the committee drafting process and bring the House package directly to the floor the first week of March. Since the budget reconciliation process has limitations, House and Senate leaders have been consulting the Senate parliamentarian throughout this process to determine which provisions can remain in a final package. The Senate will likely amend the package before approving it, requiring the House to vote again. Congressional Democratic leaders aim to pass the stimulus package and send it to the President before March 15.
Minimum Wage Challenges
Although House and Senate Democratic leaders have said they want to pass a minimum wage increase, several Democratic Senators have expressed reservations with its inclusion in a COVID-19 relief package. Additionally, President Biden has acknowledged that the wage provisions may need to be removed and considered separately due to parliamentary rules that govern consideration of budget reconciliation measures.
Congressional Budget Office (CBO) summaries and cost estimates of committee recommendations are available below.