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Progressive Democrats Back Stimulus Bill, Despite Changes in Senate Version

Even with substantial changes in the Senate, the stimulus bill is still viewed positively by progressives in the House.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal conducts a news conference in the Capitol on March 1, 2021.

Progressive Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives have signaled their intention to support a coronavirus economic stimulus package, even after the Senate made several alterations to the bill that was originally passed late last month.

The $1.9 trillion relief bill, if passed into law, will send $1,400 in payments to most adult Americans, as well as payments in the same amount for each of their dependent children. The bill will also extend the boost to unemployment payments of $300 through the beginning of September this year, as well as provide additional rental assistance to those in need due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Senate version of the economic package has many changes that progressives had pushed for in the language of the original bill passed by the House. New income eligibility limits were added in the Senate version of the bill, phasing out stimulus checks for individuals earning $80,000 or more annually and couples filing taxes jointly who make $160,000 or more.

Compromises demanded by Republicans and centrist Democrats in the Senate bill also meant that several elements within the original House version of the bill — including an increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, as well as the $400 boost to unemployment benefits that Democrats wanted — are no longer included in the final version.

The House could vote on the package as soon as Tuesday and no later than Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) said. She also expressed hope for some Republicans to support the finalized version of the bill.

“The House now hopes to have a bipartisan vote on this life-saving legislation and urges Republicans to join us in recognition of the devastating reality of this vicious virus and economic crisis and of the need for decisive action,” she said on Monday.

In spite of the changes to the stimulus bill made since the House originally passed it, progressive lawmakers have made statements that indicate they intend to vote in favor of its passage. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), described changes to the bill as “relatively minor concessions,” a statement that signals that the 93-member caucus will back the Senate-passed version of the bill when the House votes on it this week.

“The American Rescue Plan is a truly progressive and bold package that delivers on its promise to put money directly in people’s pockets and decisively crush the coronavirus’s spread, which is responsible for our economic crisis,” Jayapal said over the weekend.

The altered bill retains “core bold, progressive elements originally proposed by President Joe Biden and passed in the House relief package,” she added.

Jayapal reiterated her statement of support for the bill in a tweet on Monday.

“I’m looking forward to sending this relief package to the president’s desk — help is on the way,” she wrote.

CPC Deputy Chair Rep. Katie Porter (D-California) has similarly expressed support for the bill in its current version.

“Families at every income level are struggling to pay their bills, and they need relief that meets the size and scope of this crisis,” Porter wrote in a tweet earlier this week. “Congress must move quickly and get the bill to the President’s desk.”

A number of polls have shown that Americans are overwhelmingly supportive of the stimulus package. Almost two-thirds of respondents (63 percent) in an Economist/YouGov poll published earlier this month said they supported the bill’s passage, with only 30 percent stating that they were opposed to it.

If passed by the House, the bill will advance to the White House, where Biden is expected to sign it within the week. The president is also scheduled to give a prime-time speech to the nation on Thursday, his first time since taking office, commemorating the anniversary of the national effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, including shutdowns and social distancing measures.

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