Third Stimulus Check: Democrats Heading for Clash Over Lower Income Threshold

Debate over cutting the eligibility threshold for another round of stimulus checks looks set to further enrage progressive Democrats perturbed by those touting this.

President Joe Biden has frequently outlined desire for the next COVID-19 relief package to be passed in a bipartisan manner, and has expressed a willingness to reduce who receives direct payments to facilitate this.

On Sunday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen suggested she and Biden were opposed to $50,000 per year earnings being the threshold for individuals but open to it being below $75,000, the level set for previous checks.

"I think the details can be worked out. And the president is certainly willing to work with Congress to find a good structure for these payments," Yellen said on CNN.

Biden's willingness to compromise on the point comes with a raft of lawmakers having criticized the suggestion. He is wedded to the idea of the checks being $1,400, but who gets them is the point up for discussion.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last Wednesday: "Further targeting means not the size of the check, it means the income level of people who receive the check and that's something that has been under discussion. There hasn't been a conclusion but certainly he's open to having that discussion."

While some Democrats, such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), have been open to this, others, largely from the more progressive wing of the caucus, have staunchly opposed such a suggestion.

"'Targeting' survival checks further is cruel & bad policy," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said in a Sunday tweet.

In a previous post in regard to "targeting" the payments, she said: "How about we just go ahead and do what we said we would do and send people $2,000 survival checks so they can feed their kids, keep the heat on, and pay rent during this devastating crisis."

Other progressives have also criticized the suggestion of cutting the threshold, while there are also those who continue to voice support for further direct payments by advocating monthly stimulus checks.

A letter signed by more than 50 Democratic lawmakers sent to Biden argued for the thresholds to stay the same, referring to areas where there is a high cost of living as one reason for maintaining them.

"These lower income thresholds would leave behind struggling individuals and families in regions where the costs are very high," the letter, signed primarily by Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), said.

As Yellen voiced the stance of $50,000 being too far, other Democratic lawmakers have also attacked this point.

"Reducing the income cutoff for survival checks to $50,000 is totally unacceptable," Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) said in a recent tweet.

The ongoing debate comes after a budget resolution passed last week. Several amendments were passed in regard to relief, such as blocking "upper-income taxpayers" from receiving relief, however these are not binding agreements. The amendment did also not define what an upper-income taxpayer was specifically.

Congressional committees will now move forward in drafting the components of a reconciliation bill.

Through the reconciliation process this could potentially pass with no Republican backing, though that would require it needing unanimous Democratic backing in the Senate and there would also be limited room for dissent in the House.

Newsweek has contacted the lawmakers named and the White House for comment.

the us capitol
The U.S. Capitol stands on January 12, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Lawmakers look to continue to clash over eligibility for further stimulus checks as debate over COVID-19 relief continues. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images