The U.S. Senate is expected to begin deliberations on the version of The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last Saturday, February 17, 2021, as early as today, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Up to 20 hours of debate and votes on significant amendments are expected (the dreaded vote-a-thon). Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has expressed confidence that the bill will be passed by the Senate this week.
Senator Schumer’s comments came after a virtual meeting among Senate Democrats and President Biden on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, during which the President urged his caucus to be willing to accept some amendments they may not like, and not to hold passage of the bill hostage.
We anticipate that the Senate will pass a bill somewhat different from the House’s submission, which will then require a second vote in the House. Democrats in both chambers are working to get the bill signed by President Biden before March 14, as the proposed relief includes an extension and an increase to the Federal unemployment insurance supplement, which is set to expire on that date.
While the House bill provides for raising the minimum wage to $15 in stages, with the full amount reached in 2025, the Senate is unable to even consider that provision in their version, as the Senate Parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, has ruled it out of bounds.
This is because the Senate, in order to pass the bill swiftly, is using the process of “budget reconciliation,” which sidesteps the filibuster rules and allows a controversial bill to pass with a simple majority vote. However, there are limits as to what measures can be considered when using this process.
Republicans in both House and Senate have objected to a number of the bill’s provisions, focusing on such items as spending on high-speed rail projects, what they consider overly-generous aid to state and local governments, and projects undertaken overseas, among other items.
Polls indicate that Americans, by a large majority (including a majority of Republicans), want the bill passed.
Stay tuned – we expect some Senate fireworks in the coming days!
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Until next Wednesday –