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Democrats Stick With $75K Threshold for Stimulus Checks After Pressure From Left

The House released legislation on Monday that keeps Biden’s original income threshold for the full stimulus checks.

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts) stands by as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi answers questions at a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center on July 24, 2020.

On Monday night, the House Ways and Means Committee released legislation that rejected moderate Democrats’ and Republicans’ proposal to further target the stimulus checks. The legislation keeps the income threshold where it was in President Joe Biden’s original draft of the stimulus at $75,000 for an individual to receive the full amount.

In the draft legislation, released by committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Massachusetts), individuals earning less than $75,000 a year and couples earning $150,000 a year will receive checks for the full amount of $1,400. This is the same threshold as was used in the case of the $600 stimulus checks in December.

In the past weeks, Democrats have been considering lowering the threshold for receiving the checks to those earning $50,000 a year, which is what Republicans had proposed in their pared down version of the stimulus. On the Democratic side, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), in particular, seemed to have been a vocal proponent of further targeting the checks, and even proposed an amendment with Republican Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) during last week’s “vote-a-rama” to make sure that higher income earners wouldn’t receive the checks.

Evidently, to Manchin, people making over $50,000 are earning too much to benefit from the checks. “An individual of $40,000 income or $50,000 income would receive it…. And a family who is making $80,000 or $100,000, not to exceed $100,000, would receive it,” Manchin said recently. “Anything over that would not be eligible, because they are the people who really are hurting right now and need the help the most.”

Many progressives, Democrats and Americans disagreed with the idea that an income of over $50,000 was too much to benefit from the checks — one person told CNBC that lowering the income qualification from $75,000 to $50,000 felt like a “targeted attack” on the middle class. Polls show that, among the public, limiting the checks at $75,000 was more popular than limiting them at $50,000. Lowering the threshold to $50,000, CNN reported, would mean that 29 million fewer people would get the checks this time around.

Meanwhile, progressives like Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) have been strongly opposed to the idea of lowering the income threshold. Jayapal told Washington Post reporter Jeff Stein that she’s been in “nonstop” conversations with the White House to prevent further targeting. “The idea we should cave to one Democrat” — that Democrat being Manchin — “in the Senate does not make any sense to me,” she said.

Many have pointed out that, if the goal of the White House was for the checks from this stimulus and the last stimulus to add up to $2,000 as Biden has said, it didn’t make sense to give some Americans $600 and then not give them the $1,400.

Monday’s legislation also specified that the eligibility for the checks could be determined based on 2020 tax filings, even if they haven’t fully been processed yet. This may have been in response to pushback from people like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) who tweeted over the weekend: “The pandemic hit in 2020. We should not use 2019 income to determine relief eligibility.”

For his part, Manchin did not seem upset to hear the news that Democrats had kept the original income threshold, saying that, “We’re just trying to make sure that people are truly in need,” The Washington Post’s Erica Warner tweets. Manchin has come under fire before for his waffling over the stimulus checks and progressives have threatened to primary him if he continues to push back on Democratic and progressive agendas.

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