Democrats Splinter over Relief Check Threshold: It ‘Makes No Sense’ to Modify Full Eligibility to $50K

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There is an ongoing debate among Democrats on whether to modify the eligibility threshold in the next round of stimulus checks, which are expected to be $1,400, as laid out in President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

Some Democrats, such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), believe the threshold needs to be adjusted to prevent higher earners from getting the full amount of the checks. He reportedly believes that reduced payments should begin at the $50,000 mark for individuals, compared to the $75,000 in the last relief proposal signed by former President Trump in December.

Other Democrat senators agree that the threshold needs to be reduced but have not provided an exact number.

Progressives in the House disagree. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has remained one of the loudest opponents of the proposed change, stating that it is “shockingly out of touch to assert that $50k is ‘too wealthy’ to receive relief.” Democrats simply need to “help as many people as possible” for the “slam dunk,” she added.

The Biden White House has said that the president is open to modifying the threshold.

“There’s a discussion right now about what that threshold will look like. A conclusion hasn’t been finalized; that will be worked through Congress,” White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki said during Monday’s press briefing.

“But either way, his bottom line is that families making $275,000, $300,000 a year may not be the most in need of checks at this point in time,” she continued. “But whatever the threshold is, there will be a scale up.”

“So his view is that a nurse, a teacher, or a firefighter who’s making $60,000, shouldn’t be left without any support or relief either. It’s just a question of, sort of, where the scale up looks like — what it looks like in a final package,” Psaki added. “But it’s still being negotiated at this point in time.”

According to the Washington Post, Jayapal has been in “nonstop” communication with the White House to stand against Manchin’s proposal and explain “why this makes no sense, politically or policy-wise.”

“The idea we should cave to one Democrat in the Senate does not make any sense to me,” the Washington lawmaker said.

The lower threshold would reduce the percentage of Americans receiving the full check from 85 percent to 71 percent, according to American Enterprise Institute’s Kyle Pomerleau.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who serves as the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has also stood as a significant voice in preserving the current threshold. While he supports a “strong cliff” for payments, preventing them from going to higher earners, he does not agree with the $50,000 threshold floated by some of his colleagues.

“But to say to a worker in Vermont or California or any place else, that if you’re making, you know, $52,000 a year, you are too rich to get this help, the full benefit, I think that that’s absurd,” he told CNN.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has also expressed hesitation.

“If you think about an elementary school teacher or policeman making $60,000 a year, and faced with children who are out of school, and people who may have had to withdraw from the labor force in order to take care of them … [Biden] thinks, and I would certainly agree, that it’s appropriate for people there to get support,” she said during a Sunday appearance on CNN, acknowledging that the “exact details of how it should be targeted are to be determined.”

“Struggling middle-class families need help, too,” Yellen said, adding that Biden is “certainly willing to work with Congress to find a good structure for these payments.”

The debate over the eligibility threshold comes as progressives up their demands for recurring $2,000 payments in future relief packages.