The House of Representatives finally gave approval on Wednesday to one of the largest economic stimulus measures in U.S. history, a $ 1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief law that gives President Joe Biden his first major legislative victory in office.
Approval in the democratically controlled chamber came without any Republican support after weeks of biased debate and riots in Congress.
The measure provides $ 400 billion for $ 1,400 direct payments to most Americans, $ 350 billion in support of state and local governments, an expansion of the tax credit for children and increased funding for vaccine distribution.
Democrats have described it as a critical response to a pandemic that has killed more than 528,000 people and thrown millions out of unemployment.
“This is a historic day. It is the beginning of the end of the Great Covid Depression,” said Democratic Representative Jan Schakowsky.
Biden plans to sign the bill on Friday, the White House said.
Republicans said the measure was too expensive and fraught with waste with progressive priorities. They said that the worst phase of the biggest public health crisis in a century has largely passed and the economy is heading for a rebound.
“It’s the wrong plan at the wrong time for so many wrong reasons,” said Republican Rep. Jason Smith.
Democrats were anxious to get the final bill to Biden’s desk for his signature before the current federal unemployment benefits expire on March 14.
The House, which approved an earlier version of the legislation, needed to meet again to approve changes made in the Senate over the weekend.
“There has been a lot of talk about this package being too big and too expensive, but if ever there was a time to go big, it should be,” said Democratic Representative Richard Neal.
The House rejected an effort by Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to delay the proceedings by requesting a postponement – something she has tried four times since taking office in January.
The House voted 235-149 to plow ahead, with 40 Republicans joining the Democrats to reject Greene’s bid.
Packages popular with voters
Although many Republicans supported coronavirus assistance under former President Donald Trump’s administration, no Republican legislator voted for the bill in the House or Senate, although polls have shown that it is popular with voters, including Republicans.
According to a Reuters / Ipsos national opinion poll, conducted March 8-9, 70 percent of Americans support the plan, including the majority of Democrats and Republicans. Among Republicans, five out of ten say they support the plan, while nine out of ten Democrats support it.
The legislation can have a high impact on both parties. If it succeeds in giving the economy a big boost, it can also improve the Democrats’ political fortune as they try to hold on to their narrow majorities in Congress entering the 2022 midterm elections.
The Democrats have a narrow majority of 221-211 in the House and without Republican support they could afford to lose the votes of only a few of their members. Some Democratic lawmakers in the House had criticized the amendments to the Senate bill.
The Senate had removed a federal minimum wage increase of $ 15 per hour until 2025; tightened eligibility for $ 1,400 direct payments, limited them to those earning less than $ 80,000, reduced unemployment insurance payments to $ 300 per week from the $ 400 house, and directed some state and municipal support to smaller communities.
The massive expenditure drive is seen as an important driving force, combined with a faster rate of Covid-19 inoculations and a declining rate of infection, in a rapidly brighter outlook for the country’s economy.
Private and public economists have marked their growth estimates, with Morgan Stanley this week indicating 2021 economic output growth of 8.1 percent. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on Tuesday predicted that US growth would peak at 6 percent this year, up from an estimate of about 3 percent just three months ago.
( Jowharwith REUTERS)