February 12, 2021
The House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday completed vetting its part of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 “rescue” package. Members voted 25-18 to advance it out of committee. Key provisions include:
The Committee’s section-by-section summary of the provisions and the legislative text of the legislation can be found here.
The bill now travels to the House Budget Committee where it will be added to the larger rescue package that will include legislation from eleven other committees. All House committees are expected to complete vetting their bills by February 16, 2021. The Budget Committee will then combine these bills and they will become the $1.9 trillion rescue package.
The House is expected to vote on this rescue package during the week of February 22nd. Passage is expected. After action in the House, the package will go to the Senate. Once the rescue package is in the Senate, it is not expected to be vetted by Senate Committees. Instead, it will go straight to the Senate floor where it will be subjected to amendments, most likely several of them.
Senate passage of the rescue package is contingent on it getting a simple majority of support, because of reconciliation instructions, as Eide Bailly explains here. This means that the bill can pass the chamber with only Democratic support, which includes the backing of Vice President Kamala Harris. However, getting support from all Senate Democrats might require changes to the rescue package that is expected to pass the House; mainly, raising the minimum wage to $15.00 over a period of years. There are a handful of Democratic Senators who do not support this measure and it might need to be jettisoned from the package to secure Senate passage.
If the Senate modifies the legislation, then the House must approve those changes, which is expected to occur in quick fashion so that the legislation can be enacted by mid-March. The goal by Democrats is to have the entire legislation approved by Congress and signed into law by mid-March so that unemployment benefits, like the enhanced payment, benefits to gig workers, and the extension of coverage, which are all currently set to expire on March 14, 2021, are extended before they perish.
House Ways and Means Committee rescue plan
In vetting its rescue plan, the House Ways and Means Committee divided its legislation into nine parts, deemed “subtitles,” and lawmakers vetted each subtitle individually.
The vetting process, known as a “markup,” allows Committee Members to amend the bill. (The term “markup” refers to lawmakers “marking up” a bill by offering amendments to it.) The Committee’s markup lasted two days, and Democrats did not offer any amendments. It was rumored that Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-N.Y.) or Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) would propose an amendment repealing or modifying the limitation on the state and local tax deduction, but it never occurred.
Since its introduction, the legislation has barely changed, other than minor and clerical changes. Republicans offered several amendments,which all failed along party lines. Nearly all Republican amendments, if adopted, would have increased the deficit beyond what is allowed under the reconciliation rules.
Without reconciliation, it would require 60 votes to pass the rescue package from the Senate, instead of a simple majority. It is highly unlikely that ten Senate Republicans would join 50 Senate Democrats in supporting this bill, so this procedural maneuver is vital to ultimately enacting the rescue package.
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