Senate Democrats pledge to pass the Biden $1.9 trillion stimulus package by mid-March

Senate Democrats pledge to pass the Biden $1.9 trillion stimulus package by mid-March
(L-R) Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) walk to a news conference on February 9, 2021.Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • Senate Democrats are promising they will approve the Biden rescue plan by March 14.
  • "We will meet that deadline," Majority Leader Schumer told Senate colleagues.
  • A Century Foundation report said 11.4 million people would start losing jobless aid on March 14 if a plan doesn't pass by then.

Senate Democrats are vowing they will approve the Biden rescue plan by March 14, the date when enhanced unemployment insurance programs would start lapsing for millions of Americans.

"The Senate is on track to send a robust $1.9 trillion package to the president's desk before the March 14 expiration of Unemployment Insurance benefits," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a Friday letter to colleagues. "We will meet this deadline."

It's the latest sign that Democrats are racing to enact the package within a matter of weeks, though their timeline has slim room for error. A recent report from the Century Foundation indicated that on March 14, 11.4 million people would start losing all their jobless aid - including the exhaustion of benefits from state unemployment programs - if Congress fails to approve a package by then.

The House Budget Committee will begin assembling the final legislation on Monday. House Democrats are pushing for a vote at the end of next week, and its passage would send the bill to the Senate for consideration.

The House's draft of the proposal would provide $1,400 stimulus checks and $400 federal unemployment benefits through August, as well as gradually implement a $15 minimum wage. It also includes significant funding for vaccine distribution, virus testing, and aid for state and local governments.


But Republicans are fiercely opposed to the Democratic rescue plan. They argue it is too much spending, coming only months after lawmakers approved a $900 billion package, which Biden repeatedly called a "down payment" before taking office.

"Any further action needs to be focused on destroying this virus and rebuilding our economy in a targeted and efficient way," Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said last week during a markup hearing. "This nearly $2 trillion 'stimulus' package is neither targeted nor a stimulus."

Major procedural hurdles remain, chiefly whether a $15 minimum wage survives the reconciliation process that Democrats are employing. Reconciliation is a maneuver that allows the party with at least 51 votes - the number of Democrats in this Senate, including Vice President Kamala Harris - to approve a package, instead of the 60 usually required to thwart a filibuster.