Democrats Torn on Who Should Be Eligible for $1,400 Stimulus Checks

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., listens during a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, on housing finance plans. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Susan Walsh/AP Photo

Debate looms among members in the Democrat caucus over which Americans should be eligible to receive another round of coronavirus relief payments directly from the federal government, as some seek to tighten the threshold for eligibility for future payments.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) responded sharply to reports of her Democrat colleagues in the upper chamber vying to alter the eligibility threshold for relief payments. With Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote, the Senate approved President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal, which provides $1,400 direct payments to the American people. Full direct payments of $600 in the last coronavirus relief measure were provided to individuals making up to $75,000.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a more conservative member of the Democrat caucus, is seeking to modify the threshold to “ensure upper-income taxpayers are not eligible” for the payments “according to a nonbinding amendment he and several other Democrats plan to push during votes on budget documents,” as NBC News reported. According to his office, he believes that the threshold, for reduced payments, should be capped at $75,000. In other words, reduced payments would begin at the $50,000 mark.

However, other lawmakers who agree that the amount should be modified do not necessarily have a specific dollar amount in mind.

“I do think it needs to be reduced from what the president has proposed,” Sen. Angus King (I-ME) said, according to the outlet:

The Manchin amendment passed by a vote of 99-1 as part of the “vote-a-rama” on Thursday, as part of the budget vehicle Democrats are using to pass a bill without requiring GOP support. But that was not an indicator of agreement — after all, senators define “upper-income” differently.

Apart from Manchin and King, the Democratic co-sponsors were Jon Tester of Montana, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly of Arizona, Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, John Hickenlooper of Colorado, and Mark Warner of Virginia.

Ocasio-Cortez warned Democrats to refrain from cutting relief at $50,000 in a Twitter thread Friday night, contending that Democrats can get a “slam dunk” by merely “helping as many people as possible”:

Biden reportedly remains open to modifying the eligibility threshold.

“Maybe we can — I think we can better target that number. I’m ok with that,” he reportedly told Democrats as their definition of “upper income” remains largely undefined.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) said the next round of payments should come “within a week” of the package’s final passage.

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