The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the updated version of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.
The vote was 220-211, with all Democrats voting for the bill except for Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) and all Republicans voting against it.
The House passed a version of the bill late last month, followed by the Senate on March 4. The upper chamber removed the $15 federal minimum wage hike and changed other provisions, such as decreasing weekly supplemental unemployment aid by $100 to $300 a week. No Republicans supported the package in either vote.
Biden plans on signing the bill on Friday and “hitting the road” in the near future to try to convince Americans the package was a good idea, according to the White House. Press secretary Jen Psaki during a press conference in Washington called it “the most progressive bill in American history.”
Democrats utilized a budget process to ram the package through Congress with no bipartisan support, drawing criticism from the GOP.
“I rise in opposition to the partisan $1.9 trillion spending bill before us today. It’s shameful Democrats have disregarded their obligation to provide real COVID relief to the American people and are instead attempting to use this process to jam through partisan agenda items. This bill is not targeted, timely, or tied to COVID. We need to focus on solving the critical issues at hand: getting vaccines to Americans, providing relief to our local businesses, restaurants, and entertainment venues, and supporting those who have been seriously impacted by this pandemic. Only 9 percent of this massive $1.9 trillion package goes to fighting COVID-19. And outside of stimulus payments, nearly half won’t even be spent this year,” Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) told colleagues on the House floor on Wednesday.
But Republicans have done the same thing in the past, and Democrats noted they broke no rules.
“We have acted with the urgency this pandemic demands while following every House rule and proper procedure required for a budget reconciliation package,” House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) said.
“The American Rescue Plan is aggressive, no doubt about it, but researchers and health professionals have told us this is what it is needed to scale up testing, and to speed up equitable vaccine distribution. They said this is what is needed if we want to save lives and defeat this pandemic once and for all. Economists have also made clear what is needed to generate a strong strong, inclusive economic recovery. And, again, we listened,” he said.
Others also said the bill would provide much-needed relief.
“A once-in-a-lifetime pandemic requires bold investment and that is what the American Rescue Plan is. This bill invests $20 billion to get shots in arms and make sure everyone knows where, when, and how to get a vaccine. Many students are back in school or going back soon. California will get $15 billion to reopen safely and keep schools open to make up for lost time,” Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.) said on the House floor.
“We’ve also invested in the backbone of our economy—small businesses. In fact, economists believe this bill can bring us back to near full employment in about a year. To ensure local governments can keep providing essential services, this bill delivers over $259 million to cities and counties in my district alone. Finally, this package invests in the American people. Direct payments, unemployment benefits, tax credits, and health subsidies will lift millions out of poverty.”
Republicans asserted that the bill included a number of measures unrelated to combating the pandemic. Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) argued the economy is already poised for a full recovery while accusing Democrats of “exploiting this pandemic” to pass partisan items such as giving money to state and local governments, and sending checks to prisoners.
Lawmakers last passed a stimulus in December 2020, when former President Donald Trump was still in office. The $900 billion package included a round of stimulus checks, additional money for the Paycheck Protection Program, and supplemental unemployment aid.