Like the Winter Cold, a COVID Relief Bill Will Stretch Into March
Last week I finally grew a pair and decided to bet on whether or not Biden’s COVID stimulus will be done by February 28.
FOR THOSE OF YOU LOOKING TO FOLLOW, HERE’S WHY:
The real deadline for a COVID relief bill is March 14, and that’s what matters to everyone on the Hill. On March 14, bonus unemployment benefits from Congress’s last COVID stimulus run out. You can stop reading right now if you want, because 90% of the time, Congress uses up at least 90% of the game clock before producing legislation as expensive as this bill ($1.9T).
For a time, it felt like there was a chance that Congress and Biden could work out a less ambitious package to mail everyone their $1400/2000 Biden Buxx, but that is obviously not happening anymore.
Biden has two choices: either move the bill via partisan Budget Reconciliation, or by working something out with Senate Republicans that everyone can live with. Both of these are very time consuming and tbh, Biden himself seems very indecisive above what approach he actually wants to take.
The perils of taking the Reconciliation path were made clear in this statement from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV):
I personally think Biden’s thoughts mirror Manchin’s — that if jams a $2 trillion stimulus bill through the Capitol — he’ll never get another Republican vote again, and his mission to be a “unifying” president will be over.
Meanwhile, Schumer and Biden’s personal staff seem determined to “go big” and “not repeat the mistakes of 2009” when Republicans spent months giving input into Obamacare, only to sandbag it in the end. And after all, that seems reasonable given that the counterproposal Senate Republicans gave him was more than a $1 trillion beneath the package Democrats are circulating. So it’s hard to see how these two camps will ever square up.
For the purposes of timing final passage, this one seems like it’s headed into March. It’ll take weeks for all the relevant committees to write the legislative text, get a CBO score, and gather the votes to pass it; and if Biden takes this in a more bipartisan direction, it’ll also take weeks to work out an agreement with Republicans and Democrats on the Hill.
February 28th is done.