Just a few weeks after President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan of 2021 into law, a group of Democratic senators wrote a letter to the president asking for a fourth round of stimulation checks, following the two that passed in 2020 and Biden’s this year.
The letter from the senators specifically asked for Biden to consider additional checks as part of the “Build Back Better” infrastructure package that is the administration’s next major legislative priority.
“We urge you to include recurring direct payments and automatic unemployment insurance extensions tied to economic conditions in your Build Back Better long-term economic plan,” the letter from the senators said. “This crisis is far from over, and families deserve certainty that they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. Families should not be at the mercy of constantly shifting legislative timelines and ad hoc solutions.”
Biden has not indicated that he plans to include direct payments in the infrastructure bill, and it wasn’t part of the first set of proposals the president unveiled last week. And now, there’s another reason to not expect such checks anytime soon.
Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, widely considered the most conservative senator in the Democratic caucus, said this week in a Washington Post op-ed that he is completely opposed to any elimination or curtailment of the filibuster.
“There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,” Manchin wrote. “The time has come to end these political games, and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation.”
Manchin was not among the signatories to the senators’ letter to Biden calling for a fourth stimulus. Back in January, he was opposed to efforts to raise the dollar amount in the Rescue Plan’s stimulus checks to $2,000, which is a reason why they ended up at $1,400.
Since the Senate is currently divided 50/50 between senators who caucus with the two parties, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking ties to give Democrats the majority, Manchin’s vote is necessary to move legislation forward, unless Republicans cross party lines to vote for it.
While a fourth round of checks could theoretically pass the Senate through the budget reconciliation process—which is how the American Rescue Plan passed in March—Manchin’s seeming ironclad commitment to maintaining current filibuster rules would appear to shut off the possibility of such checks going through in a non-reconciliation bill.
A fourth stimulus payment, at least in the short term, is considered unlikely, and Manchin’s op-ed appears to have added to the low odds of another round of checks.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.