WASHINGTON (AP) – Democrats fought a battle to raise the minimum wage, but immediately embarked on another internal struggle on Friday as the party tried to move its $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill through the Senate.
Hours after saying they had struck a deal between moderate and progressive parties to renew emergency unemployment benefits, lawmakers said Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., now prefers a less generous Republican version of payments.
Manchin is perhaps the most conservative Democrat in the House and the creator of the Senate for 50 to 50 years, leaving his party without the right to vote. With a slim majority of Democrats ̵
The episode has thrown new complications into Democrats’ bid to quickly approve the relief bill, which is President Joe Biden’s main legislative goal. And while it still seemed likely they would hand over the package, the problem highlighted the headaches facing party leaders over the next two years as they tried to move their agenda through Congress with such thin margins.
“People in the country are currently affected after less than two weeks of heightened unemployment checks have been reduced,” Biden told the White House, citing the current round of emergency unemployment benefits at the end of March 14th. He called his bill “obviously a lifeline for supremacy” against the pandemic.
Relief legislation, aimed at fighting the killer virus and restoring a stabilized economy to health, will provide direct payments of up to $ 1,400 for most Americans. There is also money for vaccines and tests for COVID-19, aid for state and local authorities, aid for schools and the aviation industry, tax relief for lower-income people and families with children, as well as health insurance subsidies.
The package faces a solid wall of GOP opposition.
The Senate voted 51-50 on Thursday to begin discussing the legislation, with only Vice President Kamala Harris voting on a tie. What was biting its nails and the many eleven-hour deals that Democratic leaders cut with ordinary lawmakers reflected the delicate challenge of navigating the precarious divided hall.
The House version of the massive aid package provides $ 400 a week in emergency unemployment benefits – in addition to regular government payments – until August.
In a compromise with the moderates, revealed earlier Friday, Senate Democrats said it would be reduced to $ 300 a week, but extended until early October. The plan, sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., Will also cut taxes on unemployment benefits.
Deputies later said Manchin preferred an alternative from Senator Rob Portman, Ohio, which would provide $ 300 a week in benefits by mid-July.
“I don’t know where he is,” Democratic Party II leader Richard Durbin of Illinois said of Manchin’s latest position on unemployment benefits. Asked if Democrats could simply accept the GOP version, Durbin said: “We don’t want to. We want to finish it. “
It was a nod to the need for Democrats to relaunch the general relief bill through the House, which has a large number of liberals. He approved the original version of the legislation last weekend, which the Senate has since changed.
Manchin is a leading voice among moderates trying to cut bill spending. Democratic leaders were trying to reach an agreement with Manchin, but his cabinet did not return requests for comment.
“I feel bad for Joe Manchin. I hope the Geneva Convention applies to him, “GOP № 2 Senate leader John Tun of South Dakota told reporters about the pressure on West Virginia.
Before the unemployment benefits drama began, senators voted 58-42 to kill the most progressive priority – a gradual increase in the current minimum wage from $ 7.25 to $ 15 in five years.
Eight Democrats voted against the proposal, suggesting that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., And other progressives who have vowed to continue efforts in the coming months will face a tough battle.
But seven hours after the start of this nominal minimum wage call, it has not yet been officially closed, as all Senate work has stalled as Democrats struggle to resolve their unemployment benefit problem.
The next step will be a mountain of change, especially from Republican opponents, almost all of whom are destined to fail but are forced to force Democrats to take politically awkward votes.
Republicans say the joint bill is a liberal fest that ignores the growing number of vaccinations and signs of a booming economy suggesting that double crises are easing.
“Our country is already set for a rapid recovery,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Citing an unexpectedly strong job creation report. The Democrats have inherited a tide that has already turned.
Democrats reject this, citing 10 million jobs the economy lost during the pandemic, and many people are still struggling to buy food and pay rent.
“If you just look at a large number, you’re going to say, ‘Oh, it’s getting a little better,'” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y. “It’s not about the lower half of America. Is not.”
In a hopeful sign for Biden, a survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for the Study of Public Affairs found that 70% of Americans support tackling the pandemic, including a remarkable 44% of Republicans.
Friday’s stalemate over unemployment benefit arrears was not the first delay. On Thursday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Forced House officials to read aloud the entire 628-page relief bill, a grueling task that took 10 hours and 44 minutes and ended shortly after 2 a.m. EST.
Democrats made a number of other late changes to the bill designed to boost support. They ranged from extra money for food programs and federal health care subsidies for workers who lost their jobs to funds for rural health care and a language that provided minimum amounts for smaller states.
In another late deal that satisfied moderates, Biden and Senate Democrats agreed on Wednesday to strengthen the right to direct inspections of individuals. The new provision completely eliminates payments of $ 1,400 for individuals earning at least $ 80,000 and couples making $ 160,000 much lower than the original ceilings.