Vice President Kamala Harris broke a 50-50 tie in the Senate on Feb. 5 to pass a budget resolution that will allow President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package to advance without GOP support. (New York Times, Feb. 5)
- The budget resolution triggers special “reconciliation” procedural protections that prevent a possible filibuster by Senate Republicans – and will give tax-writing and other committees in both chambers until Feb. 16 to report legislative language for consolidation into a final pandemic relief bill. (“Budget Reconciliation: The Basics,” House Committee on the Budget)
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “This was a giant first step. So we will keep working as hard as we can to pass this legislation through the House, through the Senate as we go through the reconciliation process and hopefully put it on the President's desk.” (Schumer statement, Feb. 5)
- ‘House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Schumer issued a joint statement on Feb. 1 to unveil the budget resolution. “Congress has a responsibility to quickly deliver immediate comprehensive relief to the American people hurting from COVID-19. The cost of inaction is high and growing, and the time for decisive action is now,” according to the statement.
- Additional unemployment assistance and other pandemic aid measures are scheduled to expire in March as calls increase for more funding to support vaccine distributions, direct payments to households, school reopenings, and relief for businesses. (AP, Feb. 2)
- Earlier in the week, President Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package proposal was countered by a $618 billion Republican proposal. The GOP counter-proposal did not include aid for state and local governments, rental assistance, or further extension of the CDC’s eviction moratorium beyond its current expiration date on March 31. (Comparisons of the Democratic and Republican proposals have been prepared by CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today).
- Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer said,” The Real Estate Roundtable is encouraged by both Democratic and Republican efforts to work toward additional economic relief from the pandemic. Given the continuing great need for additional assistance to cities, people and businesses, we continue to urge policy makers to find a path forward.”
Changes Possible Before Final Package
- White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki commented there may be some changes to Biden’s “American Rescue Plan” to achieve compromise on the next pandemic package, including lowering the qualifying income threshold for the proposed $1,400 in direct payments. (AP’s YouTube channel, Feb. 2)
- The reconciliation process allows for congressional tax-writing committees to consider measures that could potentially be added to the package. A group of 120 House and Senate Democrats – led by Ways and Means Member Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and Senate Finance Committee member Sheldon Whitehouse, (D-RI) – this week urged congressional leaders to reinstate the full limitation on net operating losses and active business losses that were part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The CARES Act included tax relief that allowed businesses to carry back 2018-2020 net operating losses to prior years, thus allowing them to claim refunds for taxes paid in earlier years.
- The letter states that proceeds from reversing the NOL measure “should be repurposed to help Americans who have lost income due to the pandemic and its economic fallout.” (Feb. 2 letter)
Separately, a power-sharing agreement for the 50-50 Senate was unanimously adopted on Feb. 3 by the chamber after Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) finalized terms. The agreement allows Democrats to take control of Senate committees and formalize their leadership. (Wall Street Journal and Politico, Feb. 3)
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