The budget resolution that passed in both chambers of Congress is not the Covid-19 relief bill. It simply sets the stage for Democrats to be able to use a process known as “budget reconciliation” to pass the relief bill on a party-line vote, possibly in late February or March, after the impeachment trial of former President Trump is complete in the Senate.
Embedded in the budget resolution are reconciliation instructions for multiple congressional committees to formally draft and approve legislation on things like funds for vaccine production and distribution, unemployment insurance, stimulus checks and more.
The House already passed the budget measure earlier in the week. But because it was amended in the Senate forcing the House to revote on it Friday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that next week, they will begin working on the specifics of the bill, and predicted that the House will send a bill to the Senate “hopefully in a two week period of time,” so that “this will be done long before the due date” of the expiration of unemployment insurance in March.
Biden has said he is willing to go forward without the support of Republicans, but he’s also stressed that he’s willing to make certain concessions if it will earn bipartisan support.
A Biden aide told CNN Friday the Senate’s passage of the resolution is a “positive step forward” and that the White House is “looking forward to continued progress to getting assistance to the American people.”
Congressional Democrats have also made clear that they think time is of the essence on the proposal, and a deep divergence remains between Biden’s $1.9 trillion and the $618 billion GOP proposal.
The counterproposal still includes $160 billion to battle the pandemic, but Republican senators want to send smaller, more targeted relief checks and only extend unemployment benefits through June, not September.
Reconciliation has been used many times by both parties to pass controversial legislation over the objections of the minority party, including then-President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act in 2010 and Trump’s sweeping tax cuts in 2017.