This is my update for Sunday, January 31st. Many of you have probably received your $600 stimulus check, or stimulus debit card by now, but if you thought you would get one and it hasn’t arrived, it may have been redirected to settle government debts instead of going straight to you as a direct payment.
When the first round of stimulus checks went out they almost always went straight to the recipient, so the only thing they would divert those checks for was unpaid child support.
For example if you had $1,200 coming and you owed $500 in child support, you would have received a $700 check and had the other $500 cover your child support debt. On the other hand, the second set of stimulus checks can be redirected to many other types of debt including federal and state taxes, student loan debt, plus Social Security and Veterans Affairs debts in addition to child support.
There hasn’t been a statement on why this policy changed from the first to the second round of checks, and it’s hard to say whether they would redirect the next set of payments if they pass another stimulus, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’ve been waiting for a check and you haven’t received one.
In other stimulus news, 100 Representatives, led by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, asked leaders in the house to consider adding a provision to the upcoming stimulus that would create a path to citizenship for Dreamers, essential workers who are undocumented, and others with temporary protected status.
Their letter, which was sent to Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, and John Yarmuth, the chair of the Budget Committee, pushed them to include this measure in the bill they bring up to pass through reconciliation. They wrote that “the inclusion of these protections is not just a necessity for economic recovery, it is an issue of economic and racial justice for communities that have been the most vulnerable to the crisis and left out in previous relief packages.” If they added this to whatever relief bill is passed, it would apply to an estimated 5 million undocumented essential workers, who obviously haven’t been eligible for any of the stimulus checks or extra unemployment payments that have kept other people and families above water during the pandemic.
It’s hard to say whether this would be eligible for budget reconciliation, which is technically only for budget-related measures, but it could become a very popular provision on the Democratic side given that it would help a group of people who have mostly been left out of the prior relief bills.
Also, early this morning, a group of ten Republican senators reached out to the Biden administration to offer a counter-proposal to his $1.9 trillion plan and open bipartisan negotiations. Unsurprisingly, the group of ten includes some well-known moderate Republicans like Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Rob Portman, plus Shelly Moore Capito, Jerry Moran, Thom Tillis, M. Michael Rounds, Todd Young, and Bill Cassidy. I mentioned this last week, but reconciliation bills can be passed with just 50 votes since Kamala Harris is the President of the Senate and can cast a tie breaking vote if the Senate votes on party lines.
So the Democrats don’t necessarily need to work with the Republicans in order to get something on Biden’s desk, but they may prefer to go the bipartisan route and show that they’re interested in a good faith negotiation, especially with how much Biden emphasized unity throughout the campaign and over the past few months.
And while you only need a simple majority to pass something through budget reconciliation, you need 60 votes in the Senate to get around the filibuster for most conventional legislation. So when ten Republican senators ask for a meeting with Biden, they’re basically saying that we can get you past the filibuster if you’re willing to work with us and develop a bipartisan stimulus plan.
Now I’m not sure how likely that is, Biden’s plan comes with a $1.9 trillion price tag, and this plan they proposed is estimated at just $600 billion, so that’s a gap of $1.3 trillion, and I doubt the Democrats are going to look at cutting more than two-thirds of their stimulus bill as a serious option when they can just try to pass something on their own without any Republican support.
The letter indicates that they want to bring the price tag down by making the stimulus payments more targeted, which is something that Democrats may be open to, but it also leaves out any mention of emergency funding for local and state governments, which constitutes $350 billion in the Biden plan.
So again, this will come down to which points each side is willing to concede, and how far the Democrats will budge before they give up on negotiating and move to a reconciliation plan that can be passed on party lines.
But even just by proposing something, Republicans can put some pressure on the Democrats to back up their claims about unity and steer the conversation back in their direction. Hopefully we’ll get more clarity on these points throughout the week.