Economy & Business

Democrats’ Massive Stimulus Plan Approved in Final House Vote

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) arrives at the Capitol the morning of the final House vote on President Biden’s coronavirus relief bill in Washington, D.C., March 10, 2021. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

The House on Wednesday voted 220-211 to approve the Senate’s updated version of Democrats’ $1.9 trillion COVID-relief bill, paving the way for President Biden to sign the legislation into law later this week. 

The bill largely passed along party lines, with just one Democrat, Representative Jared Golden of Maine, joining Republicans in voting against the measure.

The Senate passed the bill on Saturday in a 50-49 vote after making a number of changes to the legislation that had passed the House in February. Changes included more targeted eligibility requirements for stimulus checks, a reduction in the federal boost to unemployment benefits, and the elimination of a provision that would have raised the federal minimum wage to $15.

The bill that ultimately passed the Senate contains $1,400 checks for Americans making less than $75,000 a year, while married couples making $150,000 or less will receive two checks. Payments are phased out for individuals making $80,000 and married couples making $160,000. White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced Wednesday that Biden would sign the bill into law on Friday.

Federal unemployment benefits will continue at $300 per week until September 6 under the legislation, while the earlier bill would have provided a $400 weekly bonus through August 29.

The bill also includes $130 billion in funds for K-12 schools, intended to help districts reduce class sizes to accommodate social distancing, improve ventilation systems, and make other changes. One measure introduced by Senator Maggie Hassan (D., N.H.) requires schools that receive funding to provide reopening plans within 30 days. However, the relief bill does not mandate that schools reopen for in-person learning.

The legislation also allocates $350 billion for state and local governments, in measures Republicans have criticized as “blue-state bailouts.

However, not included in the bill is the minimum wage hike after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the provision could not be included in the bill under the reconciliation process that Democrats used to pass the bill with only a simple majority, instead of the 60-vote threshold that is required for most legislation.

While Democrats have argued that a sweeping bill is needed to provide Americans with additional aide one year into the coronavirus pandemic, Republicans have rebuked the bill as wasteful spending.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) criticized the bill shortly after it passed on Saturday.

“The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way or through a less rigorous process,” McConnell said.

Biden celebrated the bill’s passing on Wednesday, saying an “overwhelming percentage of Americans Democrats, Independents, and Republicans — have made it clear they support the American Rescue Plan.”

“Today, with the final passage in the House of Representatives, their voice has been heard,” he said in a statement. “Now we move forward with the resources needed to vaccinate the nation. To get $1,400 in direct payments to 85 percent of American households. To expand coverage and help with lowering health care premiums. To give small businesses what they need to stay open. To expand unemployment insurance, provide food and nutrition assistance. To help keep a roof over people’s heads. To cut child poverty in half.”

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