But getting the proposal — proposals, really, since there will be different versions between the House, Senate and White House that must be reconciled — passed into law will test Biden’s calls for unity.
Work on the plan so far has made clear not just that most Republicans have little appetite for cooperating with the Democrats who are now in charge, but also that Democrats — whose control of Senate rests with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote — aren’t totally unified among themselves.
Continue below to find out what we know right now about where the bill is at and where it’s going.
Is there a deadline for this thing to pass?
Sort of. Current expanded unemployment benefits run out March 14. That’s the date by which Democrats have said they must have the Covid relief bill passed into law.
There are different proposals for extending these benefits. In the House, Democrats have proposed extending by an additional 24 weeks two separate programs — one for part-time and gig workers and the other for people in more traditional state-run unemployment programs.
What are the next steps?
How many people could lose expanded unemployment benefits in March?
The two unemployment programs were created nearly a year ago by the CARES Act, which Congress passed in March 2020 and extended in December. More than a third of Americans reported their household has had trouble covering expenses during the pandemic, according to a survey conducted by the Census.
Can this bill pass by mid-March?
Democrats say yes.
“We are on track to get this bill done and get it on the President’s desk before the expiration of the enhanced unemployment benefits, which is March 14,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday.
Will any Republicans join in?
It doesn’t look like it. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that Republicans had visited the White House to ask for a smaller and “more targeted” bill. But Democrats and Biden weren’t interested, he said.
“They’re going to try to muscle this through on a totally partisan basis,” McConnell told reporters Wednesday.
How can Democrats pass the bill without any help from Republicans?
What are the main sticking points for Republicans?
Republicans have groused about the size of the stimulus package and some of the specific measures, like the size of stimulus checks for certain groups. Republicans want much smaller checks, if any at all.
There have also been criticisms of funding to public transportation authorities hurting because of the pandemic.
What are the main sticking points for Democrats?
Do Republicans support raising the minimum wage?
Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton have suggested a $10 federal wage, but Democrats say that’s too small and they also want to make the wage increase automatically with the cost of living.
What happens next?
This drama will unfold over the next two weeks as Democrats work to find a way to pass the bill before March 14.
This story has been updated to reflect the latest developments.