Schumer says Senate ‘on track’ to send Covid relief to president’s desk before March 14

Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday that the Senate is on track to send a coronavirus relief bill to the president’s desk before enhanced unemployment benefits expire March 14. 

“We’re going to meet that deadline,” he told reporters in a weekly press conference. 

The House is poised to pass President Biden’s relief bill this week. 

More than 18 million Americans are currently receiving jobless benefits, including $300 in weekly enhanced federal unemployment benefits. But the “American Rescue Plan of 2021” includes $400 in enhanced unemployment. It would also extend pandemic unemployment programs through August 29.

The House Budget Committee authored its special budget reconciliation measure this week to handle the $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid bill. The measure then goes to the House Rules Committee, and a full House vote on the 600-page bill is expected Friday or Saturday. 

CONGRESS BEGINS SLOG TO FINALIZE DEMS’ $1.9 TRILLION CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS BILL: WHAT TO KNOW 

The most contested rider in the bill is sure to be a $15 minimum wage. On Tuesday Schumer refused to answer questions on whether he’d consider a lower minimum wage– some Democrats are looking at an $11 minimum wage, according to aides. Schumer said he won’t consider the lower number until the parliamentarian rules on if he can include the wage increase through budget reconciliation. “We’re going to await her decision before we go any further,” he said. 

“Bernie Sanders and I are arguing very strongly for $15 and for it to be reconcilable.”

The House and Senate are using special budget reconciliation rules to advance the coronavirus bill because it can skirt the 60-vote filibuster. Reconciliation can only be used for budgetary matters, and can’t include policy provisions or add to the deficit over the long-term. 

The Senate won’t take on the initial version of the reconciliation plan until at least next week. The Senate would then make changes and send it back to the House, which would have to agree to the Senate’s changes before sending the bill to President Biden’s desk. 

BIDEN’S COVID-19 RELIEF BILL INCLUDES $300B IN UNRELATED SPENDING, ANALYSIS SHOWS

In Tuesday’s press conference Schumer also said he’d directed Democrat committees to draft a legislative package to “out-compete China.” 

Capitalizing on bipartisan hardline sentiment, Schumer said he wants to enhance American competitiveness with China, invest in strategic partners and alliances and boost the semiconductor program. He called semiconductor manufacturing a “dangerous weak spot in our economy.”

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Schumer said that Congress needs to get a bill to the president’s desk “quickly” to “keep us number one” in things like Artificial Intelligence, 5G networks, quantum computing and biomedical research. 

Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

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