Additionally, Sen. Ron Wyden is pushing for a return to the $600/weekly expansion of unemployment benefits that was included in the CARES Act but expired months ago, boosting that from the $300 in the last stimulus. That bill ends the payments in mid-March, and the Oregon Democrat, who will be chair of the power Finance Committee, is pushing for a change to the UI provisions to allow for automatic triggers to extend or end the unemployment aid programs based on the national and state jobless rates because the “country isn’t going to be back to normal by March.” Wyden has told Schumer and Biden to “start with the $2,000 relief checks and continue with enhanced unemployment.”
Biden is expected to try to get Republicans support on this next round, but some of it could be passed in budget reconciliation if necessary. That shouldn’t be necessary—every Republican comes from a state that’s struggling. Every Republican represents constituents who have been affected by the pandemic in one way or another, some of them dramatically. Now that the election is over, they might be looking ahead to their next one and realizing it would be better to be seen as helping people rather than making their lives even more difficult. But they’re Republicans, so don’t hold your breath.
Mother Jones, which broke the story, gives better context of the meeting Schumer had with Biden’s transition team. “During the meeting, sources say, Schumer noted that he believed $1.3 trillion was not enough to address the current state of the tattered economy, which shed 140,000 jobs in December. Whether or not in response to Schumer, Biden officials are now leaning toward raising their ask, according to a source familiar with the transition team’s work,” Kara Voght reports. She adds “Schumer outlined a matching set of priorities in a letter to his Senate Democratic colleagues on Tuesday afternoon, promising that his first order of business as majority leader will be to pass a COVID relief package. He wrote that he hoped the Senate’s relief agenda will be bipartisan, but if Republicans stand in opposition, ‘we will not let that stop progress.’”