The House Ways and Means Committee advanced a key piece of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package yesterday, voting to extend enhanced unemployment benefits through the end of August and increase the weekly benefit from $300 to $400.

Ways and Means is in the middle of a multi-day markup of crucial provisions in Biden’s stimulus bill, including an expansion of family-based tax credits, extension of the employee retention tax credit and stimulus checks of up to $1,400 per individual.

As expected, Democratic and Republican members of the tax-writing committee have sparred regularly this week over the size and scope of the president’s package. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) said in his opening statement yesterday, “Economists from both sides of the aisle agree that the risk of not doing enough is far greater than the risk of doing too much.” The immediate need for more relief coupled with Republican resistance leaves Democrats “no choice” but to move forward with the budget reconciliation process to avoid a Senate filibuster and quickly pass a relief bill, Neal said.

“This nearly $2 trillion ‘stimulus’ package is neither targeted nor a stimulus,” countered Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX). “Whatever this rushed, partisan, special interest ‘stimulus’ package does, it comes with no bipartisan discussion, no opportunity for finding common ground, and no credible estimate of jobs [it will save].”

House Democrats have dug in on the need to “go it alone” on the COVID stimulus bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) confirmed this morning that the House package will include a minimum wage hike to $15 per hour that could prove difficult to pass under Senate budget rules for moving legislation by reconciliation. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is leading the effort to ensure the minimum wage increase survives what is known as the “Byrd-bath,” a process in which the Senate parliamentarian determines which provisions are eligible for a reconciliation bill.