What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Senate debate intensifies ahead of critical votes on Biden’s COVID relief bill

The latest jobs report showed a surprising rebound in the labor market, with employers adding a net of 379,000 new jobs in February. And the unemployment rate fell a tenth of a percentage point, to 6.2 percent. The dip in unemployment comes as the Senate debates a massive coronavirus relief bill, poised to bring economic aid to millions struggling during the pandemic. Lisa Desjardins reports.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The latest jobs report showed a surprising rebound in the American labor market.

    Employers added a net of 379,000 new jobs in February. and the unemployment rate fell a tenth of a percentage point to 6.2 percent. The rise in employment comes as the Senate is debating a massive coronavirus relief bill, poised to bring economic aid to millions who are struggling during this pandemic.

    Our congressional correspondent, Lisa Desjardins, brings us the latest on the negotiations.

    So, Lisa, tell us, where do things stand? We know, at one point, they had stopped debating. Where does it stand right now?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That is still the case, Judy.

    Senate Democrats, even as they were taking to the field today on this relief bill instantly hit a major obstacle. And it is over the timing of unemployment benefits. And it surrounds one of their own members, Democratic Senator from West Virginia Joe Manchin.

    He's indicating behind closed scenes, according to my sources, that he would like those extended unemployment benefits to end perhaps in July. Democrats had earlier announced a deal that would extend them through the end of September into October.

    And that has led to an impasse, even at this moment when Democrats hoped they would be flying closer to the finish line. We're still waiting to see how this resolves tonight.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, with all that's going on, Lisa, tell us what is changing, if anything, in the bill, and who would be affected.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    There are major provisions that are still in play tonight. And they obviously have major impact across the country. Let's look at that, first of all, those $1,400 checks. The slightly more limited version now in Senate Democrats' plan would still affect about 150 million Americans those checks would go to.

    Now, on unemployment, $300 added a week seems to be what we're talking about. It's just a matter of how long that would last. That could affect 10 to 18 million Americans, depending on when exactly we're talking about over the next six months, and then housing help. There's billions in here to help people facing possible eviction.

    That, we're talking about somewhere between 30 and 40 million Americans if they don't get that help, nervous about paying their rent and their mortgages.

    Something else I want to talk about that we don't get to is just the sheer scope of this bill. Here's a way of thinking about how massive this bill is. First of all, it's $1.9 trillion, as we have been talking about. How much is that? That is equal to all individual income taxes paid in 2019, so the last kind of normal year before the pandemic. And it's also twice the amount, more than twice the amount of the total stimulus that was passed in 2009 under President Obama to deal with the recession.

    Remember, at that time, that was seen as a massive bill. This is more than twice as large.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Our perspectives have changed in so many ways.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins reporting on what is happening with that legislation.

    Thank you, Lisa.

Listen to this Segment