Joe Biden has decided, after all, to limit the eligibility of the the third round of COVID-19 relief payments, going far enough to give fewer people money than his former political rival President Donald Trump did while in office.
And yet, Biden just took yet another step to narrow the distribution of the payments, limiting their potential positive effect on both the economy and unnecessarily hurting his party’s chances at looking like the guys who help working-class people out.
A Democratic source revealed to Washington Post reporter Erica Werner that Biden agreed to a dramatic acceleration of the phase-out of payments. Those making less than $75,000 will receive the same amount, but those making between $75,000 and $80,000 will get less. Those making between $80,000 and $100,000 would get nothing if this change goes through. These amounts are doubled for joint filers.
Biden agrees to phase out checks faster, per Dem source: pic.twitter.com/00WTBgcSPJ
— Erica Werner (@ericawerner) March 3, 2021
This move, which would deny payments to 12 million adults and 5 million children who received one the last time around, is the latest in a long line of unpopular concessions made on the issue. And what’s worse, it would shave less than one percent off of the total cost of the bill, making it a genuinely negligible difference on the cost of the massive package itself.
You may also remember that this isn’t even the first time that the Democrats have agreed to phase out stimulus payments. After Biden took office, there was another push to lower the maximum income that would qualify people for full payments from $75,000 to $50,000. That possibility provoked outrage, so the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means committee pivoted to a faster phase-out for the stimulus payments for those making above that threshold.
Instead of decreasing by $50 for every $1,000 over $75,000 in income an individual had, they would decrease by $56, which in effect lowered the maximum amount someone could make and still receive a stimulus check to $100,000. Those amounts were doubled for joint filers. And that still wasn’t enough for an unnamed group of moderate Senate Democrats, prompting Biden’s support for this latest self-defeating appeasing maneuver.
What Happens Next?
The House version of the bill, approved earlier this week, doesn’t reflect this most recent phase-out plan, which would leave out single-filer earners who make $80,000 or more/or double filers who make double. If the Senate passes the further compromised bill, the two versions will need to be reconciled, and progressives in both houses will be reticent to acquiesce to these changes, coming as they do deep into the negotiation process and at the expense of constituents who, while perhaps not struggling as much as Americans of lower incomes, could certainly use the help that they legitimately believe Democrats promised.
The 9 million households that received a payment during the last round of stimulus checks (under a Republican president) would not receive one this time around (under a Democratic president) represent millions of voters. The campaign ads practically write themselves. This one seems like a compromise that didn’t need to be made.