WASHINGTON – Congressional Democrats rejected calls from some moderate lawmakers to reduce the number of people eligible for $1,400 stimulus checks in President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief proposal, proposing an income threshold of $75,000 annually, the same threshold as the last round of $600 checks.
Families are given the full $1,400 amount per dependent as well, with both children and adult dependents included. For this third round of checks, the benefit would phase out more quickly than in previous rounds, according to the draft legislation introduced by Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. Individuals making over $100,000 and couples making over $200,000 would not receive a payment.
“Our nation is struggling, the virus is still not contained, and the American people are counting on Congress to meet this moment with bold, immediate action,” Neal said in a statement.
House committees are set to begin work this week to transform Biden’s relief plan into a bill that can become law. Democrats are using a procedure called reconciliation to pass the bill. It allows them to more easily pass the legislation through the Senate but places certain constraints on the provisions allowed in the final bill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has predicted the House of Representatives will pass the legislation by the end of the month, and that the Senate could pass it by mid-March.
The draft legislation released Monday also fleshed out provisions in Biden’s relief plan such as increasing a federal unemployment benefit to $400 per week, up from $300 in the last package, through the end of August; expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit; and increasing the child tax credit to up to $3,600 and sending it out as a monthly payment.
The rejection of a lower cutoff for the checks comes as Democrats had debated over the eligibility for the checks. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., had floated a lower cutoff of $50,000 for individuals for the stimulus checks, a proposal that drew the ire of progressives, who argued Americans suffering from the COVID-fueled recession needed more aid.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., called a $50,000 threshold “totally disconnected from the reality of tens of millions of people.”
Asked Monday about the draft legislation, Manchin told reporters on Capitol Hill, “we’re just trying to make sure that people that are truly in need” are helped.
The Senate voted last week by a vote of 99-1 to add a nonbinding amendment led by Manchin and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to the reconciliation measure to bar “upper-income taxpayers” from the stimulus checks, though it did not define “upper-income.”
Biden, too, had suggested he was open to changing eligibility for the stimulus checks, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen saying Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that workers making up to $60,000 should receive the checks.
Asked earlier Monday about thresholds for the checks, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it was a “question” of what the threshold might be in the final package, but was “still being negotiated at this point in time.”