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Senate Majority Leader Schumer wants to freeze stimulus changes

WASHINGTON (Axios): Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is privately saying he can pass President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus package but wants to avoid any last-minute changes jeopardizing its trajectory, three sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: While the president hoped to enlist Republican support for the measure, Schumer has worked to ensure he has a solid 50 votes to muscle it through if necessary. A parliamentary ruling Thursday improved his chances.

What we’re hearing: Schumer met with a group of moderate Democratic senators Thursday morning. They pushed for some changes in the bill — including moving pots of money around, more funding for broadband and rural hospitals and extending unemployment benefits beyond August.

“They have some ideas and we are going to check them out,” Schumer told Axios afterward.

Asked if some of the lawmakers suggested lowering the bill’s overall price tag, Schumer said: “I am not going into any details.”

The leader is wary of rocking the boat right now, the sources said, and expects the measure will remain relatively unchanged in its final version.

“Schumer [has] been privately meeting with members to get their input on the legislation to make sure it was included in the drafting,” a person familiar with the meetings said.

The latest: The Senate parliamentarian announced Thursday night that Democrats could not include a $15 minimum wage provision within the measure under the reconciliation process.

The ruling was significant because Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said they were opposed to including the wage hike in the package, potentially costing the Democrats critical votes.

The bottom line: Democrats have largely been in lockstep that a nearly $2 trillion package is required to meet the urgency of the COVID-19 crisis.

Last month, a group of 10 moderate Republican senators offered an approximately $600 billion counterproposal, but it was summarily rejected by the White House.

The White House has been publicly optimistic it will add some Republican support but has privately been preparing to pass the package regardless.

That strategy requires the entire Democratic Senate caucus to support it, leaving no room for error.

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