Final coronavirus relief vote could slip to Wednesday

House expects Senate-amended package Tuesday, will vote then or Wednesday

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Monday that final passage of a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package may be pushed back a day as the House waits for amended legislation the Senate approved Saturday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Monday that final passage of a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package may be pushed back a day as the House waits for amended legislation the Senate approved Saturday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted March 8, 2021 at 5:21pm

House action on the revised $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid package may slip a day as the chamber waits on the Senate to send its amended version of the budget reconciliation measure back.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Monday that the House vote on the Senate-amended bill could still occur Tuesday as originally planned if the Senate finalizes the text in time, but that it would be "Wednesday morning at the latest."

"It depends on when we get the papers from the Senate," the California Democrat said, adding that it was taking time to make sure the "precise" wording of the text was incorporated. "It could be Wednesday morning, hopefully tomorrow."

[Variety of last-minute changes made to Senate aid package]

Pelosi was more specific than House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, who told reporters Monday that his scheduling of the vote will depend on how soon the Senate sends the bill over.

Hoyer, D-Md., said he talked to Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer about the timing and indicated he didn't have a firm answer on when the amended bill would cross the Capitol.

"He said as soon as they could get it ready, but it's complicated," Hoyer said. "They're working on it, getting it together."

Democrats want to get the bill to President Joe Biden's desk well before unemployment benefits expire March 14. Biden told reporters Friday that he will sign the measure “as soon as I can get it.”

The House first passed the aid bill Feb. 26 in a 219-212 vote. Two Democrats, Maine's Jared Golden and Oregon's Kurt Schrader, joined all Republicans in voting against the bill.

Schrader said in social media posts Monday that he plans to vote for the final version of the bill.

"My concerns remain on the size and scope of this bill but [I] believe the Senate changes provide meaningful relief for Oregonians in need," Schrader said.

The Senate took up the bill and adopted some amendments in a vote-a-rama that lasted more than 24 hours. The session concluded early Saturday afternoon with a party-line, 50-49 vote to pass the bill as amended.

Senate Democrats used the budget reconciliation process to get around the chamber's filibuster rules requiring a 60-vote threshold to end debate. But even with a simple-majority threshold, they could not afford a single defection in the evenly divided Senate, leading to fragile negotiations over unemployment provisions and a slow start to the vote-a-rama on Friday.

Some of the changes the Senate made to the bill are unlikely to be popular among House members. Those include eliminating a $15 minimum wage increase, which the Senate parliamentarian said violated the reconciliation rules; lowering income cutoffs for direct payments from $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for families to $80,000 and $160,000, respectively; and reducing the weekly federal unemployment benefit from $400 to $300.

Pelosi, however, said she's not concerned the Senate changes will cause any Democrats who voted for earlier version of the bill to change their minds because the bill is still "historic" and "transformative."

"A bill is not always just a personal document, it’s a compromise," she said.
"And it’s excellent."

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.