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No $15 minimum wage, stimulus checks for people making over $80k: What was left out of Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill

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The $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus bill, known as President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, that the House approved Wednesday has been derided by congressional Republicans as a “liberal wish list” that spends money in areas that have no relation to the pandemic.

While Democrats got most of what they wanted, they didn’t get everything.

Several provisions the Democratically controlled House passed last month were dropped from the bill the Senate approved Saturday. That Senate version passed the House Wednesday without further changes and now goes to Biden to sign. 

So what’s not in it that Democrats pushed for?

No $15 minimum wage. Fewer Americans eligible for direct payments. Smaller unemployment benefits. And the elimination of two key transportation projects.

Here’s a closer look at some of the changes to the American Rescue Plan:

The minimum wage will not increase to $15

Liberals in Congress have sought for years to raise the federal hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $15. President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan was seen as the best chance to include a $15 hike because the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package was being considered under Senate rules that bypass the filibuster and, therefore, do not require any Republican support.

They’ll have to wait longer.

The Senate Parliamentarian determined the wage hike did not qualify under those rules to be included in the package so it was taken out. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has vowed to introduce the $15 measure as a stand-alone bill but it’s very unlikely to pass because it would need 60 votes – which would mean getting the support of at least 10 Republicans – in the Senate to overcome an expected GOP filibuster.

Not everyone who received a stimulus check last time will get one

The earlier two rounds of direct payments went to Americans whose income was as high as $99,000. Not this time.

Individuals who make up to $75,000 still will get the maximum payment – in this case, $1,400. But the phase-out ends at $80,000 leaving millions who got some money twice before without any this time. Same joint filers will still get $2,800 if their combined income is $150,000 or less but not if it’s between $160,000 and the previous ceiling of $198,000.

The change was pushed by moderates and agreed to by Biden as a way of limiting the cost of the overall bill.

Enhanced unemployment benefits not as generous as House had wanted

The bill the House initially passed in February called for $400 in weekly employment benefits above what states already offer. But the Senate, following lengthy negotiations, settled on a $300-per week figure Democrats in the House agreed to accept.

One minor concession: the benefit will last through Sept. 6, compared to the House version that would have expired at the end of August.

Some high-profile projects won’t be getting money

Few provisions of the relief package drew as much scorn from Republicans than two transportation projects in the bill – one each from the home states of the Democratic leaders in both chambers.

The bill included $141 million to fund expansion of the BART, a subway system serving the San Francisco Bay Area, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi serves. Another $1.5 million for a bridge between part of upstate New York and Canada was also scrapped. New York is the home state of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Both projects were removed following an outcry from Republicans who used the two projects to paint the bill as a “liberal wish list” that they say has little bearing on helping the country climb out of the pandemic.

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What’s the tallest building in your state? Here’s the list

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All of the COVID-19 stimulus bills, visualized

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President Joe Biden is expected to sign into law on Friday the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package aimed at sending relief to Americans hurting form the year-long coronavirus pandemic. 

Congress has passed about $4 trillion in spending over the last year to respond to the pandemic and its economic effects. Most of the bills passed with bipartisan support, but Biden’s plan passed along mostly party lines because Republicans opposed the large price tag of the package and provisions they say weren’t related to COVID-19. 

Here’s how to visualize the enormous figures for the different bills to help with the consequences of the pandemic.

Let’s start with $1 million: If we imagine a block of 10,000 $100 bills fits in a large suitcase, then 1,000 of these blocks would give us a billion dollars, the size of a small pool.

Now we can start visualizing the relief bills. The first one rolled out almost one year ago:

Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020

Became law March 6, 2020.

Provided $8.3 billion to fight the spread of COVID-19 in the United States by funding vaccine and testing development.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Became law March 18, 2020.

The $225 billion legislation provided COVID-19 testing funds, paid sick leave, and food assistance funding.

CARES Act

Became law March 27, 2020.

The $2.2 trillion bill included $1,200 stimulus checks, enhanced unemployment benefits, created the Paycheck Protection Program small business forgiveness loan program, aid for state and local governments, and aid for corporations.

Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act

Became law April 24, 2020

At $483 billion, the measure authorized more funding for the Paycheck Protection Program and funding for COVID-19 testing.

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021

Signed into law on Dec. 28, 2020.

The $920 billion in total spending (attached to a larger government funding bill) included $600 stimulus checks, renewed the Paycheck Protection Program, provided billions for vaccines, and a renewal of a federal boost to unemployment benefits at $300 per week. 

American Rescue Plan, 2021

The first relief bill from the Biden presidency includes $1.9 trillion in total spending. The package has $1,400 stimulus checks, money for schools to reopen, and billions for vaccine distribution and development. 

The bill will be the second largest COVID-19 package after the CARES Act.

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Derek Chauvin trial live: Jury selection to continue as additional murder charge possible

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Christal Hayes

Grace Hauck

Clairissa Baker
 
| USA TODAY

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MINNEAPOLIS – A judge in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin granted prosecutors’ request to add a third-degree murder charge Thursday, giving the jury more options as it considers Chauvin’s culpability in the death of George Floyd.

Chauvin is also charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Floyd in May. Prosecutors contend Floyd, 46, was killed by Chauvin’s knee, compressed against Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes while he was handcuffed and pinned to the pavement.

Jury selection continued Thursday following debate on the new charge. Potential jurors were being questioned about their knowledge of the case and the protests over Floyd’s death and asked whether they can set aside any existing opinions to serve impartially. 

Thus far, six jurors have been chosen: five men and a woman. A few seemed eager; others fearful, some expressing safety concerns about serving on such a high-profile and divisive case, especially if their identity became public. Many had established clear opinions on the events that led to Chauvin’s arrest, but some didn’t follow the specifics on what led to Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests and riots.

Latest updates:

  • Six jurors – five men and one woman – have been selected so far. They were each vetted about whether they’d seen the footage of Chauvin restraining Floyd and their perception of police officers and various advocate groups, such as Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives matter.  
  • Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill and lawyers over the week have asked potential jurors about their previous knowledge of the case, whether they’ve seen it on the news and how they responded to a 13-page questionnaire.
  • Lawyers started Wednesday discussing several potential issues ahead of the trial, from descriptions of Floyd’s character to the potential for prosecutors to paint officers with the Minneapolis Police Department as being part of a conspiracy to back a fellow officer. 

The USA TODAY Network will be bringing you live coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial. Refresh this page updates. Follow our team of reporters on Twitter here. For news delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Daily Briefing newsletter

Six jurors – five men and one woman – have been chosen thus far to serve during Derek Chauvin’s trial. The races of the selected jurors were not immediately clear.

The court seated its sixth juror Thursday morning. The man, a self-described fan of true crime shows, noted in his pre-trial questionnaire that he “somewhat disagreed” the criminal justice system is biased against minorities.

Among the other five: a man who immigrated from Africa to the U.S., a chemist, a woman who said she was “super excited” to serve, a man who said he had a fairly negative view of Blue Lives Matter and a man who is likely being forced to cancel his wedding to serve on the jury. 

They were each vetted about whether they’d seen the footage of Chauvin restraining Floyd, their perception of police officers and various advocate groups, such as Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter.  

Judge Peter Cahill opened Thursday’s proceedings by hearing arguments on reinstating a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin, ultimately granting prosecutors’ request to reinstate it. Legal observers say the new charge gives the jury more options as it considers Chauvin’s culpability in Floyd’s death.

Cahill had earlier rejected the charge as not warranted by the circumstances of Floyd’s death, but an appellate court ruling in an unrelated case established new grounds for it.

And on Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Chauvin that aimed to prevent the additional charge. The unusual, expedited decision by the state’s high court enables jury selection to continue with just a hiccup in the proceedings rather than a delay of weeks or months while it considered an appeal.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is leading the prosecution, said in a statement the addition of the charge “reflects the gravity of the allegations against Mr. Chauvin.”

“We look forward to presenting all three charges to the jury,” he said.

Cahill also noted that the reinstatement of the third-degree murder charge does not apply to the three other officers charged in Floyd’s death. They are scheduled for trial this summer, and possible third degree charges in that case would be addressed at a later time, the judge said.

Source: USATODAY

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