The U.S. Senate wins in Georgia by Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff not only give Democrats control of the Senate, but they also mean that when President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20, his party will fully control Capitol Hill, even though it’s a very narrow majority. It will mark the first time since 2010 that Democrats will simultaneously control the House, the Senate, and the White House.
Simply put: Democrats will soon have real power to legislate. And the first item on their docket? It looks like $2,000 stimulus checks.
“One of the first things that I want to do when our new senators are seated is deliver the $2,000 checks to the American families,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is expected to become the Senate majority leader, told reporters on Wednesday.
Schumer’s decision to make passage of the $2,000 checks a top priority isn’t that surprising. Warnock and Ossoff successfully used $2,000 stimulus checks as a battle cry for their candidacies after Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the Democratic controlled House’s bill to raise the $600 stimulus checks to $2,000. Ultimately, the two parties passed a $900 billion package which included a $600 direct payment to most Americans.
We already know Biden is on board. Earlier in the week he tweeted: “The debate over $2,000 isn’t some abstract debate in Washington. It’s about real lives. Hardworking Americans need help, and they need it now. Georgia—you have the power to make it happen. Vote.”
If Democrats do proceed with $2,000 checks, they might need to pass the package through a Senate procedure called budget reconciliation. Doing so would bypass Republicans’ ability to block the package through a filibuster. Since Senate Democrats would be limited on how many times they could use budget reconciliation, they might decide to add other items to the bill. That could include extending pandemic unemployment benefits beyond their looming March 2021 expiration.
Democrats will control the 50-50 split Senate with Vice President–elect Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote. In order to pass legislation in the face of united Republican opposition, they would need every single Democratic vote, including that of moderates such as Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
“[The Democrats would] really have to thread the needle if they’re going to try to get anything through,” Michael Reynolds, investment strategy officer at Glenmede Trust, told Fortune in November of a slim Democratic majority.
The good news for Democrats? No one in their party has publicly denounced the $2,000 checks, and some Republicans, such as Sen. Josh Hawley, even say they support it.
To whom would Democrats send the checks? All signs point to those Americans who received the first two rounds. Both rounds were based on an individual’s or a couple’s 2019 adjusted gross income, also known as federally taxable income. Stimulus checks were sent to individuals earning less than $99,000 and couples without children earning less than $198,000.
Either way, Democrats holding sway over Congress likely doesn’t just mean bigger stimulus. Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets, recently told Fortune: “I think the question then becomes not just how big is this bill, it’s how many additional big bills do we get?”
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