And so begins the “budget reconciliation” process. The arcane, filibuster-proof procedure — which was used to pass President Donald Trump’s tax cut in 2017 — features “baroque parliamentary tricks that few understand,” writes Times Opinion’s Ezra Klein. In short, after the House passes an identical resolution to the Senate’s, probably within a day or so, lawmakers will take a few weeks to work out the details of the stimulus bill, subject to some constraints under reconciliation.
The final package won’t include everything Mr. Biden wants, most notably raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, which will be delayed by an amendment that senators passed to put off any increase until after the pandemic. Senator Bernie Sanders, unfazed, said that his plan for the wage increase was to phase it in over five years, not impose it immediately.
Senators also agreed to a motion to block tax increases on small businesses during the pandemic, backed a fund to provide grants to bars and restaurants hit by the coronavirus crisis, voted to overturn Mr. Biden’s halt on the Keystone XL pipeline, and forbade $1,400 stimulus checks from going to “upper-income taxpayers,” which will be defined when the bill-writing process begins.
The upshot: Something resembling the $1.9 trillion package proposed by the White House will probably become law in the coming weeks. Later today, the monthly jobs report will provide an important gauge of the strength of the economic recovery, and could influence lawmakers as they haggle over the small print for a huge stimulus.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
Johnson & Johnson applies for emergency approval of its Covid-19 vaccine. The drugmaker submitted paperwork for its single-shot treatment to the F.D.A. yesterday. Approval could come by late this month, clearing J.&J. to begin shipping it in early March.
Senator Amy Klobuchar proposes sweeping changes to antitrust laws. The new Democratic head of the Senate antitrust subcommittee introduced legislation that would prohibit companies with dominant market positions from buying rivals unless they can prove such deals wouldn’t hinder competition. Expect skepticism from Republicans and the tech industry.