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Bill banning death penalty heads to Virginia governor

Virginia would become the first Southern state to abolish executions if Gov. Ralph Northam signs the bill as expected.
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House will vote on the Senate-passed version of the Covid-19 bill on Tuesday
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In First Test Drive On Mars, Perseverance Rover Makes A Short But Significant Trip
The NASA rover traversed some 21 feet of terrain this week, in its first test drive since landing on the red planet. It also captured photos of its touchdown site and the wheel tracks it left behind.
Senate Passes Partisan $1.9 Trillion Coronavirus Package
The $1.9 trillion coronavirus package, which includes $1,400 stimulus payments and $350 billion to cities and states, passed the Senate Saturday
Senate passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package
The Senate approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package Saturday, over 24 hours after opening debate on the bill. The amended legislation now heads to the House for consideration. If it is approved by the House, it will go to Mr. Biden's desk for his signature. CBS News Capitol Hill producer Rebecca Kaplan has the latest.
Josh Hawley Says Democrats Making American Workers 'Compete With Slave Labor'
"These jobs have been shipped off to China [and] have been shipped overseas to the lowest bidder for the lowest wages," Hawley told Fox News Friday.
3/6: CBS This Morning Saturday
Senators worked throughout night to reach deal in coronavirus relief package; Chef Omar Tate on cooking, poetry, and future goals
UNICEF helps distribute vaccines to developing countries
Efforts are underway to get the coronavirus vaccine to people in developing countries. UNICEF is helping lead the charge for the global COVAX rollout in places like Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Lana Zak spoke with Michael Nyenhuis, president and CEO of UNICEF, USA, about the humanitarian mission.
Sen. Rand Paul Blocks Democrats from Funding Planned Parenthood Through Paycheck Protection Program
Sen. Rand Paul forced Democrats to remove a provision from the COVID bill allowing Planned Parenthood facilities to receive funds through the PPP.
Virtual event to mark the 56th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday"
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, events to commemorate the 56th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday" will be held virtually.
Marcin Tybura shifts to UFC Fight Night on June 5, will face Walt Harris
Marcin Tybura will draw a higher-ranked opponent when he takes on Walt Harris at UFC Fight Night on June 5.       Related StoriesMarcin Tybura shifts to UFC Fight Night on June 5, will face Walt Harris - EnclosureCBS '48 Hours' spotlights Aniah Blanchard murder case; Walt Harris, wife appear on showDefining Fights: UFC 259 headliner Jan Blachowicz
Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Triggered’ on Hulu, Another Movie Where Pals Are Forced To Kill Each Other
Who'll survive and who'll blow up the spot?
Woman found dead in street may have been hit by car, cops say
Police are probing the death of a Brooklyn woman found lying on an East New York street, officials said. Cops say the victim, Estelle Davis, 61, may have been hit by a vehicle before she was found, unconscious Friday at about 2:20 p.m. near the corner of New Lots and Van Sinderen avenues, an NYPD...
Kevin McCarthy defends Dr. Seuss with dramatic ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ reading
He will read Seuss here or there, he will read it anywhere. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is tweaking cancel-culture warriors with a heartfelt reading of the Dr. Seuss classic “Green Eggs and Ham” on Twitter. “I still like Dr. Seuss, so I decided to read Green Eggs and Ham,” the California Republican wrote Friday...
Democrats Vote Against Ted Cruz's Amendment to Stop Stimulus Checks for Illegal Aliens
Democrats voted against his amendment to the proposed coronavirus relief package that would have stopped American taxpayer's money from going to illegal aliens in $1,400 stimulus checks, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said Saturday.
Three dads, a baby and the legal battle to get their names added to a birth certificate
A polyamorous household in California is part of a unique and very modern family that includes three dads, two toddlers, two surrogates and one egg donor.
Tom Brady trolls Colin Cowherd in UFO drama
After he won his seventh Super Bowl at a logic-defying 43 years old, it’s fair to wonder if Tom Brady is from another planet. Then maybe the Buccaneers quarterback wasn’t just being sarcastic to Fox Sports radio host Colin Cowherd when he wrote on Twitter, “How do you know I’ve never seen aliens, Colin?” Here’s...
Exclusive — Peter Schweizer: Elaine Chao's 'Family Is Fused Closely to the Chinese Government'
The family of Elaine Chao, former transportation secretary and wife of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has extensive financial ties to China's government, Peter Schweizer, author of Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends, noted on Friday's edition of SiriusXM's Breitbart News Daily with host Alex Marlow.
NY lawmaker wants sex ed for kindergartners
Get ready for the latest woke wave in education: comprehensive sex ed for kids as young as 5 — thanks to a new bill in the state Senate. Legislation sponsored by state Sen. Samra G. Brouk, a freshman Democrat from Rochester, would tie New York’s health curriculum to standards written by a left-wing interest group...
Thai activists continue to call for reforms despite protest ban
Hundreds of demonstrators defied a ban on protests Saturday to demand that Thai authorities release some leaders of their movement. The protesters are part of a youth-led movement that last year started calling for reform of the country’s powerful monarchy, and the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader. Gathering in front...
Trump wants top Republican fundraising organizations to stop using his likeness
Lawyers for former President Donald Trump sent out cease-and-desist letters Friday to the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee for using his name and likeness on fundraising emails and merchandise, a Trump adviser tells CNN.
Queen calls for unity ahead of Prince Harry, Meghan Markle’s controversial interview
Queen Elizabeth will discuss the importance of coming together in a new Commonwealth address ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey. Senior members of the royal family will join together for the annual Commonwealth day of service Sunday. While COVID-19 precautions may prevent the usual festivities, The Queen will instead share a...
Senate passes Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill
The Senate passed President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan, after an all-night "vote-a-rama" and a 12-hour struggle to get one Democrat to support the party's plan on a critical issue.
Senate Passes $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Bill
Final congressional approval by the House is expected next week so lawmakers can send it to Biden for his signature
‘Entourage’ star Kevin Connolly throws tantrum after his Tesla gets towed
The actor had a meltdown after his car was towed from a flower shop parking lot.
Michael Stanley, legendary rocker and radio host, dies at 72 after battle with lung cancer
Cleveland-born rocker Michael Stanley of the Michael Stanley Band known for the Billboard hit "He Can't Love You" dies at age 72 from lung cancer.
Here's what's in the Senate stimulus plan
The Senate on Saturday passed its version of the Democrats' massive coronavirus relief package, after the House passed its package last week.
Senate passes $1.9 trillion COVID aid bill after marathon session
The Senate on Saturday passed President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill on a party-line vote. “It’s been a long day, but a new day has come,” a triumphant Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at the start of the vote, which came after a marathon night of negotiations. “With this bill we tell the...
New York COVID hospitalizations sink to lowest levels in months
The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 in New York dropped below 5,000 for the first time in nearly three months. The hospitalizations stood at 4,954 Friday, the lowest since Dec. 8, Gov. Cuomo said Saturday. The statewide coronavirus positivity rate was at 2.80 percent Friday, the lowest since Nov. 21. The rate when measured...
House Budget Chair Yarmuth: Some People Who Could Use Direct Payment Won't Get It
On Saturday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “Cross Connection,” House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth (D-KY) stated that under the coronavirus relief bill, “there will be people who could use” the $1,400 direct payments “who will not get it, but, again, 250
Amanda Gorman Says She Was Racially Profiled Near Her Los Angeles Home
Gorman said she was followed home by security guard who demanded to know where she lived because she “looked suspicious"
The NHL will hold a hearing on Tom Wilson’s hit on Boston’s Brandon Carlo
Wilson hit Carlo along the boards late in the first period of Friday's game against the Bruins.
Biden's $1.9T Relief Package, Including $1,400 Stimulus Checks, Passed in Senate
Votes fell largely along party lines, with all 48 Democrats and the two independents that caucus with them supporting the package and 50 Republicans objecting.
Who gets a $1,400 check, and other ways the COVID-19 relief bill may affect your pocketbook
A closer look at what's in the COVID-19 economic relief bill, including when the $1,400 checks would arrive and who would get unemployment.
Senate passes Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill
The Senate passes its massive Covid relief bill after an overnight session. It includes checks for many Americans and now goes to the House for a vote. Follow here for the latest from Capitol Hill.
Senate passes Biden's COVID relief bill, sending legislation with $1,400 stimulus checks to House
Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus plan survived more than 24 hours of debate in which Republicans challenged key aspects of the bill.
Senate Approves $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Bill After Insane All-Night Debate
Leah Millis/ReutersThe number-one item on Democrats’ agenda this year—a sweeping coronavirus relief package—has cleared its biggest hurdle on the way to becoming law: the evenly-divided U.S. Senate.On Saturday afternoon, the Senate passed the $1.9 trillion bill on a strictly party-line vote: All 50 Democrats voted in favor of the bill and all 49 Republicans opposed it, but Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) was absent for the vote, sparing Vice President Kamala Harris from having to break a tie.The process wasn’t meant to be easy, but the bill’s journey to passage was downright shambolic, even by congressional standards. The Senate was in session for over 24 hours, voting, debating, and considering amendments to the mammoth legislation. Much of the delay stemmed from one member, centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), whose reservations about the bill’s unemployment benefits unexpectedly froze the floor for nearly 12 hours on Friday as Democratic leadership and the White House frantically worked him to support the latest deal.Read more at The Daily Beast.
A guide to what you can expect to get from the $1.9 trillion Senate stimulus
The $1.9 trillion coronavirus package passed by the Senate contains a wide range of proposals to help Americans still struggling with the economic fallout of the pandemic.
5 winners and 3 losers in the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus bill
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) arrives to the Capitol for a vote in Washington on Thursday, March 4, 2021. | Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images. Sen. Joe Manchin is a winner in the stimulus bill. Losers: deficit hawks, and people hoping for a $15 minimum wage. President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package is on the brink of becoming law. While it may not have been everything many Democrats hoped and dreamed of, the bill is a pretty big deal. After days of wrangling over last-minute changes to the bill text, the United States Senate passed the relief bill midday Saturday. The vote was 50-49 along party lines. It includes $1,400 stimulus checks to millions of Americans, extends expanded unemployment until September 6, and doles out billions of dollars toward vaccinations, testing, state and local governments, schools, and businesses. Much of the back-in-forth in recent days has been over making small changes to the legislation on the margins — margins, to be clear, that will affect millions of people. The scope of stimulus check recipients was scaled back, so that they will go to people making up to $75,000 a year ($150,000 for couples) and phase out at $80,000 ($160,000 for couples). Previously, the phase-outs were set at $100,000 and $200,000, respectively. That change cuts eligibility for an estimated 12 million adults and nearly 5 million children, though it is worth noting this bill expanded check eligibility to adult dependents, such as college students and those with disabilities. The president’s original plan was to extend expanded unemployment insurance through September, and to pay out an extra $400 a week instead of $300. There was some hope Democrats would put automatic stabilizers in the bill tying supports to economic conditions, but they didn’t make the cut, and a federal minimum wage hike will have to wait for another day. The legislation will get much needed help to a lot of people, and that is a win for them. That a bill this sweeping exists at all was not guaranteed: had Democrats not won both Georgia Senate runoffs in January, it would look far different, or maybe not even exist at all. Here’s a look at the winners and losers of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which is now headed back to the House of Representatives and likely to President Biden’s desk in the days to come. Winner: Social democracy In 2014, sociologist Lane Kenworthy published an ambitious book titled Social Democratic America. Kenworthy argues that not only would America benefit from a more expansive welfare state, but that it likely will adopt such a social democratic model in the coming years. This prediction rests in part on a two-step theory about how the US welfare state expands. First, policymakers become aware of a problem that’s best solved by expanded social benefits in order to solve — poverty and economic insecurity among the elderly, for example. Second, the program designed to solve it — Social Security, in this example — becomes so popular and entrenched that it’s impossible to roll back. Kenworthy’s analysis helps us understand why the consequences of the stimulus bill’s direct cash provisions — the $1400 checks and the expanded child tax credit — could end up being even bigger than we think. In theory, these programs are designed to address the specific problem of families suffering from the Covid-caused economic disaster. In practice, they’re likely to prove so popular that there will be increased demand for more government direct provision of checks both in crises and outside of them. Proposals like Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT)’s child allowance, in which the government would send monthly checks to families of young children in perpetuity, are all of a sudden looking more and more like plausible legislation. Indeed, all of this was set up by the initial decision to include $1200 direct checks in last March’s stimulus bill. As my colleague Dylan Matthews writes, it seems like we’re already seeing the idea of direct provision catch fire: Cash’s bipartisan popularity, and its ability to muster large-scale public interest and support, suggests that the future might involve a lot more policies like checks — even when the pandemic has passed. Covid-19, in other words, may have done what years of basic income advocacy could not do on its own: convinced our political class that handing out cash is a good, popular, economically effective policy. We could very well be seeing Kenworthy’s social democratic ratchet effect in real time: an economic crisis best solved by expanding government, and the popularity of this government expansion leading to its institutionalization. The US is certainly a long way from a European social democratic model, but the stimulus bill may prove to be a major step in that direction. — Zack Beauchamp Loser: Deficit hawks The Democratic left faced a few setbacks during the debate over the Covid relief bill. Moderate Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) successfully pushed to deny direct payments to individual Americans making over $80,000, a change that’s likely to make the bill less popular while only cutting $12 billion from a $1.9 trillion package. And the bill does not include a $15 minimum wage, a reform championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). But these setbacks only marginally decrease the ambitiousness of one of the most aggressive spending bills in American history. In 2019, the last year before the pandemic, the federal government spent a total of $4.4 trillion. So this $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill costs more than 40 percent of the total amount that the government spends in a typical year. If you lived through President Obama’s first term, the extent of the Democratic Party’s turn away from deficit hawkery is nothing less than miraculous. In 2009, at the height of the deep recession that began the previous year, Obama signed an $800 billion stimulus bill intended to jumpstart a struggling economy. Economists now view this mix of spending and tax cuts as far too small. The US economy stopped hemorrhaging in the wake of Obama’s efforts to fix it, but the Great Recession gave way to years of sluggish growth. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely that Obama could have secured significantly more funding given the politics of this era. Even his own advisers split on whether the Democratic Party should risk being labeled the party of fiscal profligacy. Two years later, after Republicans took control of the House in 2011, Obama negotiated with Republicans for a “grand bargain” to slash the deficit. He even offered to cut programs that Democrats traditionally view as sacred and untouchable, such as Social Security. And it’s likely that Obama would have agreed to such cuts if Republicans hadn’t killed any chances of a grand bargain by refusing to allow higher taxes on the wealthy. A decade later, fiscal politics have changed dramatically. Obama’s cautious approach in the 2009 stimulus bill did nothing to protect Democrats from brutal loses in the 2010 midterms. And, after Obama agreed to spending cuts in 2011 and 2013, the economy grew at a steady but unimpressive pace for the remainder of Obama’s presidency. President Biden, for his part, believes that one of the lessons of the Obama years is that caution is no virtue in the midst of an economic crisis. “One thing we learned is, you know, we can’t do too much here,” Biden told reporters shortly after taking office. “We can do too little. We can do too little and sputter.” And the rest of the party appears to agree with him. Every single Senate Democrat and nearly every Democratic House member voted for the Covid-19 relief bill. Deficit hawkery has taken a back seat in the party, for now. — Ian Millhiser Loser: Moderate Senate Republicans In early February, moderate Senate Republicans were riding high — confident they could strike a deal with President Joe Biden on Covid relief. A group of ten Senate Republicans scored the coveted first Oval Office meeting with the new president, sitting down with Biden in-person before even Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Republicans thought Biden’s $1.9 trillion bill price tag was far too high, so they proposed a $618 billion counter-offer. “I am hopeful that we can once again pass a sixth bipartisan Covid relief package,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told reporters as she exited the Feb. 1 White House meeting. That was about as far as bipartisan talks went. A few weeks later, Collins had pretty much soured on the prospect of getting a bipartisan deal done, telling Capitol Hill reporters that talks with the White House had “stalled.” There was no real middle ground to be had on Covid talks; the administration was sticking to its opening bid. “The administration has not indicated a willingness to come down from its $1.9 trillion figure and that’s a major obstacle,” Collins told reporters in late February. Even though the White House had said they were willing to negotiate — and certainly, some things in the final bill were different, like the lack of a $15 minimum wage — the final bill price tag is remarkably about the same as what it was when Biden first announced it. Moderate Republicans who had gotten overtures from the White House found themselves largely left out of the process because public polling indicated the bill was broadly popular with voters of both parties. And Biden and his top economic advisers had absorbed the lessons of the Obama era on stimulus; namely that going big on the economy when you have the chance is preferable than going small. Speaking to reporters, Collins blamed Biden’s top staff, namely White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, more so than Biden himself. “He’s doing a good job at outreach,” Collins said of Biden. “He was very attentive and gracious, into the details; there was a great discussion. And Ron was shaking his head in the back of the room the whole time, which is not exactly an encouraging sign.” Moderate Republicans ended up losing out on the first major bill of the Biden era. The remaining question is whether this could come back to hurt Biden in future congressional negotiations on his forthcoming infrastructure plan, or other big legislative priorities. — Ella Nilsen Winner: Small (and big) businesses that fought a minimum wage hike The Chamber of Commerce and businesses big and small have fought against hiking the minimum wage for years. In the Covid-19 relief package, they racked up yet another victory on that front: Not just the Senate parliamentarian rule that it couldn’t be passed through budget reconciliation, but the fact the $15 federal minimum wage amendment was defeated with eight Democratic votes. The federal base rate will remain at $7.25, where it’s been since 2009. That Democratic lawmakers gave up relatively easy on the fight for $15 for now draws attention to a glaring reality: there’s not consensus among the caucus that it’s a good idea. Sen. Manchin has been quite clear he’s not into the $15 idea. He’s not entirely opposed to raising wages at all, he’s just like something smaller, say, $11. There’s no denying that many small businesses have struggled during the pandemic, and that even in normal times, running a business — including paying employees — is hard. But it’s also hard to argue that $7.25 is a living wage anywhere in America under any circumstances. Many cities and states indeed are already requiring higher wages, and again, any wage increase would phase in, it’s not like everybody is going to have to pay $15 tomorrow. “Sometimes it’s lost on folks on folks that the wage increase is gradual,” said Rebecca Dixon, executive director at the National Employment Law Project. She also emphasized the way that a low minimum wage disproportionately impacts certain groups — namely, Black and Hispanic works, particularly women. “More than half of Black folks live in the South, so when we’re talking about raising the minimum wage, that’s the only way it’s going to be raised in the South,” she said. Democrats say they’ll keep pushing on the minimum wage — if and when that push will turn into law remains unclear. They may find some consensus on the matter, but they haven’t yet — a Senate amendment to put a $15 minimum wage back in the Covid-19 bill was voted down on Friday, with 58 senators voting against it. — Emily Stewart Winner: Joe Manchin Sen. Brian Schatz walks past Sen. Joe Manchin in a hallway of the Capitol.“Your highness,” Schatz greets him.Manchin acknowledges his colleague, keeps walking.— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) February 2, 2021 It’s good to be the king. And when you’re Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), the pivotal vote in a 50-50 Senate, representing a deeply conservative state and knowing Democrats are lucky to even have you, you’re the king. The pandemic relief bill passed by the Senate unmistakably bears Manchin’s stamp. The Senate parliamentarian may have technically scuttled the $15-an-hour minimum wage increase by ruling it non-budgetary, but it was Manchin’s opposition to the underlying policy that doomed any chance of fixing it. It was Manchin, too, who insisted on capping check eligibility at $80,000 incomes (for childless single filers) rather than $100,000. That was even before Manchin decided to make a real spectacle on Friday, by threatening to derail a deal that progressive and moderate Democrats had struck that morning on changes to expanded unemployment insurance. To satisfy the moderates, progressives had agreed to cut the additional UI benefits from $400 per week to $300 per week — but they’d last through September, and federal income taxes on the first $10,200 of benefits would be forgiven. The White House endorsed the deal and the Senate seemed set to move ahead. But Manchin decided that deal wasn’t good enough for him — and that he might well vote for a competing Republican amendment on the topic. For procedural reasons, Democrats held open their previous floor vote for over ten hours — setting a Senate record — so they could frantically negotiate with Manchin behind the scenes. In the end, Manchin agreed to their proposal with fairly minor additional changes (the tax forgiveness on UI benefits would not apply to wealthier households, and the benefits would cut off in early September rather than late September). Some of his other demands may have been substantively, and perhaps even politically, ill-advised, as well. His changes to the checks created a situation where at least some upper-middle income earners who received checks under Trump will not get checks under Biden. The White House estimates 2 percent of households (3.5 million) who received at least some money from the December relief package won’t get any from this one. The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy estimates 5 percent of adults are left out as compared to House Democrats’ bill. Disappointing those people results in saving just $12 billion in what’s still a $1.87 trillion package. So there’s a strong case that, as the Nation’s Jeet Heer writes, all this was “gumming up the work for the sake of gumming up the works, pure performative centrism without rhyme or reason.” But removed from substance, the crux of what happened is: Manchin made demands, and Democrats agreed to them to secure his vote. Because of that, he gets to be covered in the press as having forced difficult changes to the bill rather than simply going along with what Biden wants — even though, in the end, he really did go along with the vast majority of what Biden wanted. He knew he had leverage, and he used it. —Andrew Prokop Winner: Millions of Americans who need the help On Friday, as Senators debated the relief bill, Pew Research Center released a survey on how Americans are experiencing the pandemic economy. Its findings were pretty staggering: 39 percent of upper-income adults say their financial situations had improved over the last year, meanwhile, 32 percent of lower-income adults said they’re worried about being able to buy food, and similar numbers said they’re worried about the cost of health care, paying their mortgages, and losing their jobs. While the stimulus bill isn’t perfect and certainly could have been more generous — unemployment insurance benefits kept at $400 instead of $300, the stimulus checks with a higher phase-out — it’s going to get some meaningful assistance to a lot of people. The US is still some 10 million jobs short of where it was pre-pandemic, and expanded and extended unemployment will be there to support workers as those jobs begin to return. The House version of the bill had $400 in UI benefits until August 29. Now, the Senate version has $300 in weekly benefits until September 6. The package also contains an all-important provision that the first $10,200 in benefits won’t be taxable for households with incomes up to $150,000, preventing many workers from receiving a surprise tax bill they might not be able to pay. Some people who qualified for stimulus checks before won’t this time around because their incomes are too high, but adult dependents — including college students and those with disabilities — will be eligible for checks for the first time. The expanded child tax credit and earned income tax credit will mean real money to real people. And, of course, funds toward testing and vaccines will hopefully make the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel a little closer and a little brighter. Democrats and many economists have warned that the risk on the economy is doing too little, not too much. We won’t know where this falls in all of that until years from now, but Biden set out to take a big swing to help a lot of people, and he did it. — ES Winner: Private insurance The stimulus package would be the most significant step in the last 10 years toward patching up some of the holes in the Affordable Care Act. The most effective provision would be a two-year expansion of the ACA’s premium subsidies, which Americans can use to purchase private health insurance on the marketplaces the law established. The relief bill would increase the size of the subsidy for those already eligible for assistance (people making between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level). It would also extend subsidies for people earning more than 400 percent of the poverty level, ensuring that nobody would pay more than 8.5 percent of their income for health coverage. This would provide help to one of the populations left out of the ACA: the roughly 2.6 million people who make too much money to qualify for subsidies and are currently uninsured. Based on prior estimates of such a proposal, somewhere between 4 million and 5 million people would be expected to gain coverage as a result of expanding the subsidies. The Biden administration has already opened ACA enrollment to everybody until May 15, which would give people an immediate opening to take advantage of the new benefits. — Dylan Scott Loser: Expanding Medicaid to remaining Republican states Democrats are also trying plug one of the other biggest holes in Obamacare: the so-called Medicaid expansion gap. The 2010 law was written with the intention that every state would expand the program to people living in or near poverty. But then the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government couldn’t force states to expand Medicaid; they must have a choice. As a result, 12 states have for the last decade refused Medicaid expansion, and an estimated 2.2 million Americans who would have been otherwise covered by the expansion are still uninsured and have no other realistic option for affording coverage. Most of them live in the South and they are disproportionately Black. Democrats now are offering a new enticement for the holdout states to expand Medicaid. Already, under the ACA, the federal government would cover 90 percent of the expansion’s costs. Under the stimulus bill, newly expanding states would also receive a 5 percent bump in the federal funding match for their traditional Medicaid programs for two years. Because the traditional Medicaid population is significantly larger than the expansion population, the funding bump is projected to cover a state’s 10 percent match for expansion enrollees and then some over those two years. But conservative state officials don’t sound interested in taking it. Based on an informal survey of the states yet to expand Medicaid, the provision in the stimulus bill that provides increased funding for states that expand the program now may end up having no effect at all. That would mean millions of people in poverty remaining uninsured. I hopped on a press conference this week with Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) to ask him whether the new funding incentive would prompt him to reevaluate the decision to refuse Medicaid expansion. “No, sir, it will not,” was his answer. I heard the same from other governors’ offices in the non-expansion states. “The Governor remains opposed to the expansion of Medicaid in Florida,” Cody McCloud, spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), said in an email. Laine Arnold, a spokesperson for Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R), said the governor was focusing on implementing the state’s new Medicaid block grant approved in the final days of the Trump administration. “Governor [Kristi] Noem knows that expanding Medicaid is not the answer to accessing quality healthcare in South Dakota,” Ian Fury, a spokesperson for the South Dakota Republican governor, said in an email. Their intransigence has created a bizarre disparity for the stimulus legislation, which will likely succeed in extending more generous premium tax subsidies to middle-class Americans but appears destined to fail in covering uninsured people in poverty. If Democrats are serious about closing the Medicaid expansion gap now that they control Congress and the White House, they’ll need to find another way. The stimulus bill is not going to get the job done. — DS
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Senate Passes $1.9 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package
The package delivers a new round of financial assistance to Americans grappling with the impact of the pandemic. The House will need to vote on the final version.
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The Senate just passed the $1.9 trillion stimulus package. Here’s what in it.
Senate Democrats united to pass the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill. | Getty Images The package includes funding for stimulus checks, vaccine distribution and school reopenings. The Senate — following a grueling vote-a-rama on Friday and Saturday — has finally approved a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill, bringing it one step closer to becoming law. The legislation, which passed 50-49 on a purely party-line vote, with Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) not voting due to a family funeral, now heads back to the House where a vote is expected as early as Tuesday. This step is significant and follows immense back and forth in the upper chamber over multiple provisions, including some — like the $15 minimum wage — that were stripped out for procedural reasons, and others — like unemployment insurance — which have been changed in response to pressure from moderate Democrats. The relief bill, once it comes to fruition, will include a massive boost for businesses and workers who are still reeling from the ongoing fallout of the pandemic: As of February, 18 million people were still receiving unemployment insurance and nearly 100,000 businesses had permanently shut down. This legislation includes funds aimed at addressing these needs, as well as tens of billions to help with vaccine distribution, over $170 billion to boost schools, and $350 billion in direct state and local aid. In the Senate’s final version of the bill, many provisions are consistent with what the House proposed, while other measures have been changed: The overwhelming majority of Americans will still receive the $1,400 stimulus checks, for example, but a slightly smaller number now. Those checks were previously phased out at the $100,000 threshold for single individuals and the $200,000 mark for couples, and the new cutoffs are now at $80,000 and $160,000, because Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) had pushed for a more targeted bill. On unemployment insurance, too, lawmakers have reduced the enhanced weekly payment from $400 to $300 and made up to $10,200 of the aid people receive non-taxable for those with household incomes of $150,000 or less. The House is ultimately slated to take up the Senate version of the bill shortly and send it to President Joe Biden for his signature. The Senate vote on Saturday cleared a serious hurdle for the legislation and means that the long-awaited stimulus could soon be approved. What’s in the bill Much of the Senate bill is quite similar to what’s in the legislation the House of Representatives passed in late February. However, there were some changes in the Senate proposal that will make a difference in who gets relief and how much — perhaps most notably, on stimulus checks and unemployment insurance. Here are some key highlights of what’s in the Senate legislation: $1,400 stimulus checks. There’s been a lot of back-and-forth about who will get stimulus checks, and after lots of haggling, Democrats finally landed on some parameters. The bill would distribute $1,400 stimulus checks to single people earning $75,000 and $150,000 for couples. Payments would then be reduced and phased out for single people making up to $100,000 and couples making up to $200,000. During Senate negotiations, lawmakers changed the parameters around the phase-outs. Now, stimulus checks phase out for single people at $80,000, head of household filers at $120,000, and couples at $160,000. That means some people won’t get stimulus checks who have in the past. However, it is worth noting that the legislation also includes checks for adult dependents, such as college students and the disabled, so some people will be getting checks for the first time. Unemployment insurance. As with stimulus checks, Democrats did some back-and-forth on unemployment benefits. The bill provides an additional $300 in weekly unemployment benefits from the federal government through September 6, 2021. It also extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for the self-employed and contractors, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which tacks on extra weeks of state benefits, through that date. Importantly, it makes the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits untaxable to households with incomes of under $150,000, preventing many workers from receiving a surprise tax bill they can’t pay. Tax credits: The bill expands the child tax credit to $3,000 per child up to age 17 and $3,600 for children under age 6 for 2021, and it modifies the child and dependent care tax credit so that families can claim up to half of their related care expenses. It also enhances the earned income tax credit for people without children. Obamacare premium subsidies. The bill increases the Affordable Care Act premium subsidies for two years for low- and middle-income Americans, or those making up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. That would make health care through the ACA marketplace more affordable in 2021 and 2022. The bill also adjusts subsidies for people who make more than 400 percent of the poverty level to make sure that nobody pays more than 8.5 percent of their income for coverage. Money for schools. The bill calls for $170 billion toward schools, including reopening and directing funds toward areas such as ventilation system upgrades, reduced class sizes, and personal protective equipment to help make schools safer, and ensures the money is directed toward public schools. Schools are required to put 20 percent of money toward learning loss, meaning efforts to make up for lost ground with students missing school. It also has funding for higher education. Vaccines, testing, and tracing: The bill directs $46 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services to detect, diagnose, trace, and monitor Covid-19. Rental assistance: Democrats are aiming to put $25 billion toward emergency assistance to renters. State, local, tribal, and territorial funding: The bill directs $350 billion total toward state, local, tribal, and territorial funding, split into 60 percent for states and 40 percent for localities. A restaurant revitalization fund: House Democrats are seeking to put $25 billion toward a new program at the Small Business Administration that would support restaurants, $5 billion of which will be set aside for businesses with under $500,000 in revenue in 2019. The restaurant industry has been particularly hard hit in the pandemic — the National Restaurant Association estimates industry losses in 2020 to be $240 billion. Energy assistance: The bill directs $4.5 billion to HHS to help low-income people pay their energy and water bills. Internet connectivity: The bill establishes a $7.6 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund to be enacted by the FCC to expand internet connectivity to students and teachers during the pandemic. A $15 minimum wage will have to wait for another day Many Democrats hoped to include a provision in the Covid-19 relief package that would have increased the federal minimum wage, which has been at $7.25 since 2009, to $15 by 2025. The provision did make it through the House-passed bill, but it was struck down by the Senate parliamentarian, who ruled it didn’t fit under the rules of the budget reconciliation process Democrats are using to pass the stimulus. There was some hope that Democrats might find a different avenue for increasing the minimum wage to $15, including overruling the parliamentarian, getting rid of the filibuster, or finding some way to compel companies to pay a $15 minimum wage by taxing them if they didn’t. But ultimately, they forged ahead with the Senate bill without it. One thing that became clear as Democrats in the Senate tried to hash this out: a significant portion of the caucus doesn’t want to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025. A Senate amendment to put a $15 minimum wage back in the Covid bill was voted down on Friday, with 58 senators voting against it. The legislation may not be everything progressives wanted, but the bill’s passage in the Senate is an important step toward getting millions of people help.
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