Feb 25, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Schumer wants to freeze stimulus changes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is seen during a news conference Thursday.

Sen. Chuck Schumer. Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is privately saying he can pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus package but wants to avoid any last-minute changes jeopardizing its trajectory, three sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: While the president hoped to enlist Republican support for the measure, Schumer has worked to ensure he has a solid 50 votes to muscle it through if necessary. A parliamentary ruling Thursday improved his chances.

What we're hearing: Schumer met with a group of moderate Democratic senators Thursday morning. They pushed for some changes in the bill — including moving pots of money around, more funding for broadband and rural hospitals and extending unemployment benefits beyond August.

  • “They have some ideas and we are going to check them out,” Schumer told Axios afterward.
  • Asked if some of the lawmakers suggested lowering the bill's overall price tag, Schumer said: “I am not going into any details.”

The leader is wary of rocking the boat right now, the sources said, and expects the measure will remain relatively unchanged in its final version.

  • "Schumer [has] been privately meeting with members to get their input on the legislation to make sure it was included in the drafting," a person familiar with the meetings said.

The latest: The Senate parliamentarian announced Thursday night that Democrats could not include a $15 minimum wage provision within the measure under the reconciliation process.

  • The ruling was significant because Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said they were opposed to including the wage hike in the package, potentially costing the Democrats critical votes.

The bottom line: Democrats have largely been in lockstep that a nearly $2 trillion package is required to meet the urgency of the COVID-19 crisis.

  • Last month, a group of 10 moderate Republican senators offered an approximately $600 billion counterproposal, but it was summarily rejected by the White House.
  • The White House has been publicly optimistic it will add some Republican support but has privately been preparing to pass the package regardless.
  • That strategy requires the entire Democratic Senate caucus to support it, leaving no room for error.
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