The Senate passed an amendment to the latest COVID-19 relief bill, H.R. 1319, this afternoon along party lines. The bill now heads back to the House for consideration in what is shaping up to be a busy legislative week in Washington, DC.
H.R. 1319 was considered under the rules of budget reconciliation, which a special but limited process tied to the passage of a budget resolution that allows Congress to adjust essentially spend and raise revenue, as well as increase the debt limit. A simple majority in the Senate is all that’s needed to move reconciliation legislation through the Senate as long as it doesn’t violate any of the rules of budget reconciliation.
Some provisions of the original House-passed bill were stripped out in the Senate because of the Byrd Rule. For example, the provision of the House-passed bill that would’ve raised the minimum wage to $15 per hour was taken out in the Senate because its budgetary impact was incidental.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) did offer an amendment to the bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. However, that amendment was subject to a 60-vote threshold because it violated the Byrd Rule. Although the amendment failed, Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Ralph Warnock (D-GA) vote voted for it, showing that they were willing to put some Georgians out of work. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) showed that employment would 1.4 million jobs by 2025 if a $15 minimum wage was enacted.
The CBO estimates that the Senate amendment to H.R. 1319 will add $1.874 trillion to the budget deficit. About 63 percent of the spending under the Senate amendment will come in FY 2021 and 27 percent will occur in FY 2022.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget notes that the cost could be $4.1 trillion once with other considerations, such as interest to finance the deficit spending and the possible permanent extension of some tax credits and other provisions.
The total legislative response to COVID-19 since the pandemic began, not including H.R. 1319, is already $4.1 trillion, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. H.R. 1319 would bring the legislative response to around $6 trillion. The Federal Reserve has kicked in another $5.9 trillion in monetary support.