US House passes $ 1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan in aid of Biden

The House approved a $ 1.9 trillion bill for a pandemic to win over President Joe Biden, even as top Democrats tried to reassure outraged progressives that they would revive their derailed unit to raise the minimum wage.

The new president’s vision of flushing money to individuals, businesses, states and cities affected by COVID-19 passed a close party line 219-212 vote early Saturday. It sends the massive measure to the Senate, where Democrats appear to be inclined to revive their minimum wage drift and fights could erupt over state aid and other issues.

Democrats said the still faltering economy and the half a million American lives lost required swift, decisive action. GOP legislators, they said, were at the same pace as a general public that voting shows to a large extent sees the bill positively.

“I’m a happy camper tonight,” said the rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, Friday. “This is what America needs. Republicans, you should be a part of this. But if you are not, we will go without you. ”

Republicans said the bill was too expensive and said too few education dollars would be spent quickly to reopen schools immediately. They said it was loaded with donations to democratic constituencies such as unions and led money to democracy-governed states that they suggested they did not need because their budgets had bounced back.

“To my colleagues who say this bill is bold, I say it’s bloated,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “To those who say it is urgent, I say it is unfocused. To those who say it’s popular, I say it’s completely biased. ”

Moderate Democrats Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon were the only two lawmakers to cross party lines. The sharp party divide makes the fight a matter of who voters will reward for raising more federal spending to fight the coronavirus and revive the economy on top of the $ 4 trillion approved last year.

The battle also emerges as an early test of Biden’s ability to hold together his party’s fragile congressional majority – just 10 votes in the House and an evenly distributed 50-50 Senate.

At the same time, Democrats tried to figure out how to convince progressives who lost their top priority in a shaky Senate uprising on Thursday.

The House’s impartial MP, Elizabeth MacDonough, said Senate rules require a federal minimum wage increase to be dropped from the COVID-19 bill, which leaves the life support bill. The measure would gradually raise the minimum to $ 15 per hour by 2025, doubling the current floor of $ 7.25 since 2009.

Hoping to revive the effort in some form, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., is considering adding a provision in the Senate version of the COVID-19 aid bill that would penalize large companies that do not pay workers at least $ 15 an hour, he said. senior democratic assistant who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

It was in line with ideas that flowed Thursday night of sense. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., A major sponsor of the $ 15 plan, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., To raise taxes on companies that do not meet certain minimum wage targets.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, also offered encouragement, calling a minimum wage increase “an economic necessity for our families, a great stimulus for our economy and a moral demand for our country.” She said the House would “absolutely” approve a final version of the relief bill because of its far-reaching benefits, even if it lacked the projected goals of progressives.

While democratic leaders were anxious to signal to ranked progressive and liberal voters that they would not give in to the minimum wage struggle, their path was unclear due to GOP opposition and questions about whether they had sufficient democratic support.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., Debated the issue of corporate taxation not raising salaries and said of the Senate Democrats: “I hesitate to say anything until they decide on a strategy.”

Progressives demanded that the Senate still move on to the minimum wage, even if it meant changing the House’s rules and eliminating the filibuster, a tactic that requires 60 votes for a bill to move forward.

“We have to reform the filibuster because we have to be able to deliver,” says the rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., A progressive leader.

Rope. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., another prominent progressive, also said Senate rules need to be changed, telling reporters that when Democrats meet their voters, “We can not tell them that this was not done because of a non. elected parliamentarian. ”

Traditionists from both parties – including Biden, who served as senator for 36 years – have opposed eliminating filibusters because they protect the parties’ interests when they are in the Senate minority. Biden said weeks ago that he did not expect the minimum wage to survive Senate rules.

Pelosi, too, seemed to get away with removing Senate procedures, saying, “We will seek a solution that complies with Senate rules, and we will do so soon.”

The House’s COVID-19 bill includes the minimum wage increase, so the real battle over its fate will occur when the Senate debates its version over the next two weeks.

The overall settlement bill would provide $ 1,400 payments to individuals, extend unemployment benefits until August, and increase tax breaks for children and federal health insurance subsidies.

It also provides billions for schools and colleges, state and local governments, COVID-19 vaccines and testing, tenants, food producers and struggling industries such as airlines, restaurants, bars and concert venues.

Democrats are pushing the aid measure through Congress under special rules that allow them to avoid a Senate GOP filibuster, which means that if they are united, they do not need any Republican votes.

It also speeds up the bill, a top priority for Democrats who want the bill on Biden’s desk before the latest unemployment benefits end on March 14.

But the same Senate rules prohibit provisions that have only a “temporary” impact on the federal budget because they are primarily driven by other political purposes. MacDonough decided that the minimum wage failed that test.

Republicans oppose the $ 15 minimum wage as a cost that would hurt businesses and cost jobs.