This is my update for Tuesday, February 9th. Today marks the beginning of Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, today the Senate confirmed fifty-six to forty-four that it does have jurisdiction under the Constitution to hold former President Trump’s impeachment trial.
As I’ve said before it has been pretty clear over the past few weeks that the Democrats won’t get enough votes to convict him, so I’ll keep you updated with what’s going on there but I expect it to play out pretty quickly. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said before the start of the trial, “The Senate has a solemn responsibility to try and hold Donald Trump accountable.
I particularly urge my Republican colleagues to pay very real attention to the evidence here because it’s very, very serious.” He also mentioned that some of the evidence will be new, so we might see some new information, but unless it’s earth shattering news I doubt it will have any meaningful effect on the trial.
While the Senate is busy with the impeachment trial, the House is currently out of session for the next two weeks, they’ll be back on Monday, February 22nd after the committees I mentioned yesterday have a chance to mark up their sections of the upcoming COVID relief bill.
Schumer also wants Senators to be working on this throughout the impeachment trial, you might remember from yesterday’s update the current round of extra unemployment expires in mid-March, which means they have just over a month to put this bill into effect and make sure people aren’t left waiting for those benefits, of course keep in mind that some states take time to implement even the slightest changes to their UI systems, so time is really of the essence here.
Democrats in the House of Representatives released a plan for $1,400 stimulus checks, there’s been some controversy over how narrowly to target these payments. The newest proposal from Democratic Congressman Richard Neal would start phasing out stimulus checks for individuals at $75,000 in income and phases them out completely at $100,000 in income.
For married couples filing jointly, the phaseout would begin at $150,000 and end at $200,000. And those upper thresholds would be hard cutoffs, even if you have several dependents because the math is a little different in Neal’s proposal than in previous stimulus proposals, here’s the math for a single individual making $90,000 with two dependents.
You’d basically take the excess of $90,000 over $75,000, which is $15,000 and divide that $15,000 by $25,000 and that gives you a percentage, 60%, and you would reduce the stimulus based on family size in this case of $4,200 for 3 people by 60%, and that gives you the stimulus payment of one thousand, six hundred and eighty.
It’s similar math for married filing jointly, let’s say you have a married filing jointly couple with two dependents making $160,000 a year, that’s over the $150,000 threshold by $10,000, you divide the $10,000 by $50,000, that gives you 20%, multiply that by the stimulus based on family size, in this case fifty-six hundred for a family of four, so that reduction is $1,120, leaving them with a four thousand, four hundred and eighty dollar stimulus payment.
So we know that many in Congress want to ensure that upper-income taxpayers aren’t eligible for stimulus checks, and this seems to be what the Dems have come up with here, so they’re considering single taxpayers with income over $100,000 “high-income” and married filing jointly taxpayers with income over $200,000 as “high-income”, making them ineligible for the fourteen hundred dollar stimulus checks at all.
Again, this isn’t a done deal, but this seems to be where mainstream Dems, at least mainstream House Dems have landed on this issue at this point. One issue that keeps coming up alongside stimulus is the $15 federal minimum wage, obviously there’s a lot of support for that in the Democratic Party, but moderate Senators could make it difficult for them to pass that in the Senate for the time being, and even beyond that there are concerns about whether a minimum wage can be passed through reconciliation, which is meant to be limited to budgetary concerns.
Biden threw even more cold water on that recently when he said that he wasn’t sure if the minimum wage increase would survive the parliamentary rules in the Senate, and Schumer responded to that quickly today when he said that Senate Democrats “are trying to work as well as we can with the parliamentarian to get the minimum wage. That’s all I’m going to say.”
He didn’t take any further questions, so at this point it’s hard to feel particularly confident that this is something they’ll be able to push through, at least within the constraints of the current COVID relief plan. And Joe Manchin, one of the most moderate Democratic Senators, he’s also from a very red state in West Virginia, only supports bringing the federal minimum wage up to $11 rather than $15.
So even if they were able to square a minimum wage law with the rules of budget reconciliation, they still may not be able to get the 50 votes they would need to put that into effect. Ultimately it’s just looking like more and more of an uphill battle for Democrats who wanted to make this happen in the first two years of Biden’s term, although it wouldn’t surprise me if they can at least get it to $11.
The White House also announced the start of the first phase of the Federally Qualified Health Center Program for COVID-19 Vaccination, which will supply community health centers around the country with vaccine doses as early as next week.
This is part of their push to send out 11 million new doses per week, which is the minimum expectation for at least the next three weeks. You can see our vaccine progress on the CDC website, I’ll put a link to that page in the description in case anyone is interested, but as of today more than 42 million total doses have been administered, with 32 million of those being first doses and nearly ten million being second doses.
Now that’s out of a total of almost 60 million doses that have been delivered, so part of that is data lag, but there have also been some complications in terms of making sure the doses get out to patients on time. But hopefully over the next few months, if they can maintain that pace of 11 million doses per week or push it even higher, we will be able to vaccinate enough people and start bringing that curve back down.
Last story for today, this one is about COVID-19 itself, a team from the World Health Organization announced their findings today, they had been in Wuhan for 12 days investigating the origins of the virus, and they determined it was unlikely that the virus originated in a lab, which is a rumor that’s been flying around since last year, although they also couldn’t trace it back to the Huanan Seafood Market, another one of the possible origins.
Their main hypothesis at this point is that the virus was transmitted from bats to some intermediary like minks, cats, or pangolins, and then one of those animals could have transmitted it to humans and started the pandemic that we’re dealing with now.
Of course, there’s still a lot of investigation left here, we’re still missing a lot of details regarding where and when the virus started, who knew what when, et cetera, but it’s interesting that two of the most prominent theories are having trouble finding solid ground like this.