Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Wednesday that while he remains hopeful to pass a bipartisan stimulus package, he said Senate Democrats are prepared to go at it alone.
With exactly 50 senators caucusing with Democrats, there is little margin for error. Without any GOP votes, all 50 members along with Vice President Kamala Harris would have to vote in favor of the package.
Getting a bill without bipartisan support would mean Democrats would be forced to use a process through 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.
This process 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. Most notably, 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.
The White House is currently pushing a wide-ranging $1.9 trillion bill that includes funds for state and local governments, distribution for COVID-19 vaccines, PPE for schools and $1,400 stimulus checks for many Americans.
“The Senate is going to press forward on another COVID relief bill,” Schumer said. “We want to work with our Republican colleagues to advance this legislation in a bipartisan way, but the work must move forward, preferably with our Republican colleagues, but without them, if we must.”
The Biden administration has conceded that it doesn’t expect its proposal to pass as is. But White House press secretary Jen Psaki wouldn’t say what exactly the administration would be willing to concede.
“[Biden] proposed his package,” Psaki said. “He's getting feedback. We're having conversations. We don't expect the final bill to look exactly the same as the first bill he proposed.”
“Each component of this package is vital to get us through this period of time,” Psaki added. “So that's how the President looks at the package: that each of them are essential -- not just vaccine distribution money, but funding to ensure that people can make sure they are putting food on the table, that their kids are eating, that they can get -- that they have the bridge needed to get to the other side of the pandemic.”
If Biden was looking to garner any GOP support, one of the first senators he may have look toward is Utah’s Mitt Romney. While Romney said he is open to another round of stimulus, he suggested on Sunday’s CNN State of the Union that relief should be more targeted.
“I think at this early stage just having passed over $900 billion in relief, that before we were to pass a new program, we need to understand where the money is going, are these the individuals that really need the help, how has the first $900 billion we just passed a couple weeks ago, how has that been distributed,” Romney said on CNN’s State of the Union.
“If there is need, if there are areas where in our $900 billion package we didn’t recognize a particular problem, we should focus on that and provide the additional resources necessary,” Romney added. “I am open to that discussion.”