Senate Democrats are divided on who should get the next round of stimulus payments, sparking a dispute as they try to pass checks for $1,400 in the next COVID-19 relief package.
The most recent round of stimulus checks was limited to people making more than $ 99,000 a year or couples making more than $ 198,000. President Joe Biden recommended the same threshold in his COVID-19 relief package of $ 1.9 billion.
But some Democrats want that income limit lowered.
Sen. Joe Manchin, a Virginia Democrat, wants to “make sure the highest-earning taxpayers are not eligible” for the checks, according to a non-binding amendment that he and several other Democrats plan to push during votes on budget documents.
But Manchin’s text does not define “high income,” a term that has been used by lawmakers to describe a wide range of wealth.
And even the co-sponsors of the Manchin amendment disagree on what the threshold should be.
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Manchin doesn’t want checks for individuals making more than $ 75,000 per year, or couples making $ 150,000, his office said. You want the amount to start to decrease to $ 50,000 per person or $ 100,000 per couple.
“We cannot cut the relief by $ 50,000. It is surprisingly out of touch to say that $ 50,000 is ‘too rich’ to receive relief.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Friday night. “Millions are on the brink of eviction. If they give too little, they will be devastated. If they give ‘too much’, a single mother could save for a rainy day. This is not difficult.”
Senator Angus King, I-Maine, who supports the Manchin amendment, said he does not have a “detailed threshold in mind” but believes it should be “redefined.”
It would give permanent residence to millions of undocumented people.
“I think you have to reduce it from what the president has proposed,” King said.
The Manchin amendment was passed by 99 votes to one as part of the “vote-a-rama“Thursday, as part of the budget vehicle Democrats are using to pass a bill without requiring GOP support. But that was not an indicator of agreement; senators define” high income “after all. different way.
In addition to Manchin and King, Democratic co-sponsors were Jon Tester from Montana, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly from Arizona, Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen from New Hampshire, John Hickenlooper from Colorado, and Mark Warner from Virginia.
Nancy Pelosi estimates that by the end of February, the package will be approved.
The amendment comes after Biden told Democrats in a call Wednesday that he will not commit the $ 1,400 amount for payments, because “he is not going to start my administration by breaking a promise to the American people.” But it opened the door to adjust income levels.
“Maybe we can, I think we can better target that number. I agree with that,” he told Democrats, according to a source on the call.
When asked how he defines high income, Tester said: “I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it depends on who you want to talk to. But I think the point of the amendment is that it is negotiable, so we can try to get some people to join.”
“Joe called me and I said, ‘Joe, that sounds reasonable.’ That’s the reason Joe gave me. And I agree,” Tester said.
In a clip from a lengthy interview with CBS News, Biden said he’s open to negotiating who is eligible for stimulus checks.
“I’m prepared to negotiate on that. But here’s the deal that middle class people need help. But you don’t need to get help for someone making $ 300,000 or $ 250,000,” said Biden, who also said he would consider removing former President Donald Trump’s access to intelligence briefings.
Both leaders spoke on common issues.
“So it’s somewhere between an individual making up to $ 75,000 and phasing out, and a couple making up to $ 150,000 and then phasing out. But then again, I’m very open to what that is.”
But some of the top Democrats don’t want to lower the level of eligibility for checks.
Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, who will be a key figure in crafting the reconciliation legislation, told NBC News that he “is not in favor of changing the threshold” because that would exclude many Americans who expect relief.
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“People who received two checks are already expecting a third based on the promises and what was said during the campaign,” he said Thursday. “They have accumulated bills and are having difficulty paying for their car insurance.”
Senate Budget Chair Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Who is leading the reconciliation process, said he will “insist” on a threshold of $ 75,000 per person and $ 150,000 per couple before it begins to phase out, the same eligibility as the last direct payment. .
He said Democrats agree that Americans who earn more than that should not be paid.
“I don’t think there are many arguments, we don’t want people who make between $ 300,000 and $ 400,000 to benefit from this,” he said.
Among the Democrats who oppose a lower limit is Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia, who won a competitive runoff on Jan.6 after campaigning heavily on stimulus checks.
“I’m advocating that we go big and provide as much direct relief to the people as we can,” Ossoff said Thursday.
This story was first written by NBC News.
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