Biden and Senate Dems Dial Back Eligibility for Stimulus Checks

President Biden has struck a deal with Senate Democrats to tighten the income threshold for the proposed $1,400 stimulus checks, as his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill faces opposition in the Senate, and amid a push to pass the legislation before March 14—when several key pieces of December’s stimulus, including extended unemployment benefits, are set to expire.

Several news outlets report that the new limits won’t change who is eligible for the full $1,400: individual filers earning up to $75,000 and joint filers earning up to $150,000 would still receive full checks. However, eligibility will tap out at much lower amounts than originally proposed: Individuals making more than $80,000 won’t receive anything, nor will joint filers with incomes in excess of $160,000. The bill passed by House Democrats last week contained higher cut-offs, with incrementally smaller payments for individuals earning between $75,000 and $100,000—and between $150,000 and $200,000 for couples. 

The deal comes after weeks of back and forth about whether to lower the thresholds, and by how much. Last month, Republicans proposed shrinking the limits to $50,000 in annual income for individuals and $100,000 for couples filing jointly.

As Democrats debated the stimulus bill, several progressive members of the party voiced opposition to lower cutoffs. “These income thresholds need to stay the same,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal told CNN. Now that the bill is in the Senate, however, Democrats must contend with tougher math in order to pass the package without Republican support.

Democrats hold 50 seats, with Vice President Kamala Harris as a potential tie-breaker—the slimmest of majorities. Barring any help from Republicans, Democrats will require unanimous intra-party support to pass the package. This math has empowered moderate Democrats, namely Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has been a key voice pushing to lower the income thresholds to more narrowly target relief money to those who most need it. Manchin met with the White House about this proposal on Monday.

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