There’s a lot that has to happen before Biden’s plan — which is chock-full of measures long favored by Democrats — becomes law. And even though Democrats will soon control the White House and both chambers of Congress, that doesn’t mean lawmakers will follow Biden’s suggestions to the letter.
The earliest the money could start flowing? Maybe mid- to late February, said Kevin Kosar, resident scholar at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute and co-editor of the book “Congress Overwhelmed.”
A president can propose ideas, but Congress passes the laws
Biden’s relief proposal now shifts to Congress, where it may change substantially as Democratic leaders transform it into a bill. They must decide whether they want to use a special legislative process called reconciliation, which would require only a simple majority of votes to pass the Senate — eliminating the need for Republican support — but would limit the provisions that could be included. Also, reconciliation also be used only sparingly each year.
Whatever leaders decide, the effort is expected to have an easier time passing in the House — which approved a $3 trillion relief package last May that contained measures similar to those in Biden’s plan — even though Democrats now hold a slimmer majority there.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, will have to maintain the support of nearly all of her party’s members, including some progressive lawmakers who have already said they want to send even more help to Americans in need.
A narrow margin in the Senate will mean compromises
The Senate is where a multitude of hurdles lie. Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York will soon take over as majority leader from Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, but the chamber will be split 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris available to break any tie votes.
In his speech Thursday night, Biden said he would like to work with members of both parties to enact his American Rescue Plan, indicating that he wants to go the traditional route, which would require the backing of at least 10 Republican senators.
Biden will play an important role in the negotiations on Capitol Hill.
“A new president and a new tone from the White House can put some pretty significant pressure when pressure is needed,” Hudak said. “For this to happen in some expedited time, it’s really going to require significant influence from the president, especially on key senators.”
One of those senators is Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia. He has recently expressed doubts over providing $2,000 in stimulus payments, preferring a more targeted approach.
“I’m on board by helping people that need help, people that really can’t make it, people that don’t have a job,” Manchin told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday. “Sending checks to people that basically already have a check and aren’t going to be able to spend that or are not going to spend it — usually are putting it in their savings account right now — that’s not who we are.”
Securing support can be a laborious process.
“All the work of getting people lined up — that’s likely going to take a lot of time,” Kosar said.