The House of Representatives voted to approve President Biden $1.9 Trillion COVID relief package in the early Saturday morning hours with the bill now heading to the Senate that includes the $15 an hour minimum wage hike provision, despite the Senate parliamentarian ruling that it cannot be included if Congress wants to use the budget reconciliation process to pass with 51 votes.
The votes were 212-219, nearly along partisan lines. Only two Democrats — Reps. Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Jared Golden of Maine joined the entire Republican House caucus in voting against this measure.
Biden’s bill, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, includes only 10% of the package address the pandemic. With the price tag of $1.9 trillion, it includes allocating only $1,400 instead of what Biden promised last month of a $2,000 stimulus checks for American individuals making under $75,000, $400 per week supplemental unemployment bonus extending until September, $160 billion for vaccine development, distribution and related needs, an extra $130 billion funding to apparently aid schools fully reopen, $30 billion in emergency rental assistance and programs for the homeless and $350 billion bailing out funds for cash-strapped state and local governments who destroyed their economy with draconian lockdowns.
The bill also includes a controversial provision to increase the minimum wage federal from $7.25 to $15. However, on Thursday night, a key Senate parliamentarian official, Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that such provision is ineligible to be considered as part of this relief package because it doesn’t qualify as a budgetary-related issue under the reconciliation process. The ruling she declared did not fit the parameters for budget reconciliation and would increase the federal deficit within the next 10 years.
“House Democrats believe that the minimum wage hike is necessary. Therefore, this provision will remain in the American Rescue Plan on the Floor tomorrow,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said following MacDonough’s ruling.
Democrats have pushed for the bill passage, declaring it is necessary for life and the economy to return back to pre-COVID while abandoning efforts to pass any type of bipartisan package with Republicans. President Biden has defended the large proposal, claiming that the country faces a bigger risk in doing too little than injecting too much money into the response, alarming some economists who have also questioned the scale of his bill.
“The time for decisive action is long overdue,” Pelosi said during the House floor debate, claiming the package is “transformative” at mitigating poverty. “President Biden’s American Rescue Plan is that decisive action. We are putting money in workers’ pockets… As President Biden has said, help is on the way.”
Despite the previous 2 COVID-related relief bills have passed with bipartisan support, this one has been met with opposition from Republicans in both chambers. GOP members have voiced against passing this bill, citing the package is filled with Democrats’ wish list, calling it a “bloated plan with unrelated policies.”
“To my colleagues who say this bill is bold, I say it’s bloated,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told reporters ahead of the vote, labeling the bill as a “liberal pipedream” as Democrats were “jamming it through in the dead of night.”
“To those who say it’s urgent, I say it’s unfocused. To those who say it’s popular, I say it is entirely partisan,” he added.
With the Senate split 50-50, and Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote, Democrats can’t afford to lose one vote in order for the package to pass.
If it passes the Senate, Biden is expected to sign it immediately into law before the March 14 deadline, the same time the $300 federal unemployment bonus is set to expire. It will be the fifth major piece of legislation approved since the pandemic began almost a year ago, and the work of nearly 15 House committees assembling each programs and formulating each of the aspects price tags conducted within this past month