JUST IN: House Passes Biden’s $1.9 Trillion COVID relief package

"P20210121AS-0485" (United States government work) by The White House

Early Saturday morning, the House approved Biden’s $1.9 Trillion pandemic relief package in a 219 to 212 vote. 

All but two Democrats gave their support in the huge COVID-19 relief package, with zero Republicans backing it. What happened in the House is a major step toward enacting the White House’s first major legislative action among dueling public health and economic crises.

Just before the passage of the pandemic relief package, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the floor, “The numbers speak volumes. 18 million Americans on unemployment. 24 million people are going hungry. The time for decisive action is long overdue.” 

Days after the United States marked the 500,000 death due to the coronavirus, the Democrats’ COVID relief bill would send $1,400 checks to millions of Americans, boost unemployment payments, and increase the child tax credit. The bill will also provide billions of dollars as aid to small businesses, states, and efforts to test for and vaccinate against the COVID-19. 

However, the House Democrat leader, who kept their members in line against the pandemic relief package, argued that the price tag of the bill is too high, with programs that are completely unrelated to fighting the coronavirus. If this bill will be passed, it will be one of the largest ever approved by Congress and will be the fifth major piece of legislation passed ever since the pandemic began. 

Meanwhile, early Saturday morning on the floor, Senior Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif) said, “Yes, this package is big, but the scale that families face is enormous. Half measures just won’t cut it.” 

After the passage of the pandemic relief bill in the House, the Senate will take up the measure next week, where top Democrats will be compelled to engage with a major setback to Biden’s plan, the Democrat’s push to include a long-shot minimum wage increase, which has officially run afoul of the Senate’s arcane budget rules.

As of the moment, the bill that was passed in the House still includes the proposal for a federal minimum wage hike to $15 per hour, assuring less tension in the lower chamber and pushing Senate Republicans to formally deny it next week. 

Democrats recognize that they more likely need to leave that push to pass the pandemic bill with a simple majority. However, Senate Majority Chuck Leader and other liberal lawmakers are still privately discussing legislative workarounds. 

One of the floating ideas is to add language in the bill that would penalize large corporations that fail to pay workers $15 minimum wage. Democrats override the parliamentarian’s decision, though many secretly acknowledge it is a longshot, and senior Democrats say it is unlikely. 

Pelosi said Friday night, “We will seek a solution consistent with Senate rules, and we will do so soon.”

The Democrats’ bill introduces a long list of priorities that last year’s Republican-controlled Senate had disregarded. This includes the historic increase in child tax credit.

The $350 billion budget allocated for cash-strapped state and local governments is also included in the bill, which is a huge priority for Pelosi after Republicans repeatedly scrapped it out of the bipartisan deals last year. 

Another enormous section in the bill is education. This includes $130 billion for K-12 schools and $40 billion for colleges to help bring students back for in-classes. 

Democrats have also dedicated a large amount for housing, with a $30 billion allocations for emergency rental assistance and programs for the homeless as well as health care, with big raises in Obamacare tax credits through 2022. 

However, two Democratic lawmakers opposed the bill. Including them is Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), who criticized the new spending for programs that are seen as completely unrelated to the ongoing pandemic or unnecessary for higher-income families the expansion of the child tax credit. 

In an interview this week, Schrader said, “It’s not well thought through, not a lot of amendments were approved or allowed. I came here to legislate, and I’m not being allowed to do that.” The other Democrat who opposed the bill was Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine.)