- Ten US senators are calling for President Joe Biden to support regular direct payments.
- It would be a big change, as past rounds of relief payments have been negotiated one by one.
- The proposal is likely to face opposition from Democratic moderates and the GOP.
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A group of senior Democrats are calling for President Joe Biden to support regular direct payments to low-income Americans while the US economy recovers from the pandemic.
Insider obtained a copy of the letter that’s being sent to the White House, led by Democrats chairing key economic committees in the Senate. They are urging the Biden administration to prioritize putting federal aid on autopilot for stimulus payments and unemployment insurance, a concept known as automatic stabilizers.
They want the measure to form part of a follow-up economic recovery package.
These Senate Democrats say setting up stabilizers for stimulus checks and unemployment assistance would be effective at providing immediate relief during economic downturns. In calling for the measure, they wrote: “This crisis is far from over, and families deserve certainty that they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.”
“Families should not be at the mercy of constantly-shifting legislative timelines and ad hoc solutions,” they said.
Key signatories include Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, chair of the Senate Finance Committee; Sen. Bernie Sanders, chair of the Senate Budget Committee; and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, chair of the Senate Banking Committee.
Last year, millions of unemployed Americans went almost six months without any federal supplement to state unemployment checks, which typically cover only 40% of lost earnings. After months of gridlock, Congress enacted a $US300 ($385) federal jobless benefit in December. It’s set to expire in mid-March if lawmakers fail to renew the program.
Stimulus checks have been distributed through single payments up to now. Under President Donald Trump, payments for $US1,200 ($1,539) and $US600 ($769) were approved for most American adults. Biden and congressional Democrats are advancing legislation for a third payment of $US1,400 ($1,795) as part of a wider $US1.9 ($2) trillion relief plan.
The proposal outlined in the letter would shift those checks from one-off payments to repeating ones, though it did not specify amounts or how often they would come. The letter was also signed another of the Senate’s most prominent left-leaning liberals, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Here is the full list:
- Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon
- Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey
- Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
- Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont
- Sen. Alex Padilla of California
- Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado
- Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts
- Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York
The letter was issued as Biden’s $US1.9 ($2) trillion bill continues moving through the Senate.
The proposal is likely to face opposition from moderate Democrats, given some are pushing to tighten the income threshold on another wave of stimulus checks. Republicans have also been reluctant to support direct payments and would most likely object to recurring ones.
Democratic proposals for higher direct payments have been popular with voters and were prominent issues during the two US Senate runoffs in Georgia this year, when Democrats took back control of the Senate from Republicans.