WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats reached a deal with President Joe Biden to limit the eligibility for $1,400 stimulus checks in his $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, phasing the payments out for Americans earning over $80,000, according to two sources familiar with the deliberations not authorized to speak on the record.
The tweak is a key goal of moderates who did not want the checks to go to wealthier Americans
The stimulus checks would start to phase out at $75,000 and phase out entirely at $80,000 of income for individuals, as opposed to about $100,000 in the version of the legislation passed by the House last week. Joint filers would have their checks phase out starting at $150,000 and entirely at $160,000.
The deal also kept a federal boost to unemployment benefits at $400 a week as they were under the House bill, the sources said, though they were expected to run through the end of August, rather than September as some progressives like Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., had advocated.
The compromise clears the way for the Senate to push forward on the bill. They could take a procedural vote to begin debate on the bill as soon as Wednesday evening, meaning the bill could pass the full Senate by the end of the week. Democrats aim to pass the bill through the Senate and back again through the House by mid-March, when the current federal boost to unemployment benefits expires.
White House Press Secretary said Biden is “pleased with the progress” in talks over his COVID-19 relief plan but said that he’s firm on the thresholds at which Americans should receive the $1,400 stimulus checks. Pressed on whether Biden agreed to more limited eligibility on the relief checks, Psaki added: “He is comfortable with where the negotiations stand.”
Some Senate Democrats signaled they would support the compromise.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., a member of Senate Democratic leadership, told reporters it would be a “reasonable compromise” to phase out the checks faster.
But Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., told reporters, “I think the package as it was originally crafted is good to go.”
Moderate Senate Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., had pushed Biden to tighten the eligibility for the checks and had huddled with the president earlier in the week. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., described their conversation as a discussion on better “targeting” the spending in the bill.
Manchin had originally pushed for the checks to phase out after $50,000 of income, though the House ultimately drafted a $75,000 threshold.
Contributing: Courtney Subramanian