The House on Wednesday passed a massive $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, an amended Senate version authorizing a flurry of new federal spending of agendas Democrats' solely negotiated on without any Republican input and will now be heading to President Biden's desk as he is expecting to sign the measure into law by the end of the week.
The legislation passed on a near party-line vote of 220-211. No Republicans voted in favor and one Democrat voted against the bill — Rep. Jared Golden of Maine. The Senate on Saturday passed the bill that also saw a party-line vote of 50-49, underscoring the sharp deeply partisan divide after an all-night Vote-a-Rama session amending the bill.
Compared to the last pandemic relief legislation passed last year, the measures saw ongoing negotiations between the Democrat-controlled House, Republicans controlling the Senate, and the Trump administration, it all passed with overwhelmingly bipartisan support. But now just three short months later after the last relief bill was finally passed, Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the presidency, they opted to craft a relief measure without any GOP input or passing any amendments.
"This legislation is about giving the backbone of this nation – the essential workers, the working people who built this country, the people who keep this country going – a fighting chance," Biden said in a statement, thanking all the Democrats "who voted for it, especially Speaker Pelosi, the finest and most capable speaker in the history of our nation."
"On Friday, I look forward to signing the American Rescue Plan into law at the White House – a people's law at the people's house," Biden added.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the legislation "a force for fairness and justice in America" that would deliver $1 trillion into people's pockets and provide assistance to schools and businesses to reopen safely.
"It is one of the most transformative and historic bills any of us have ever had the opportunity to support," Pelosi said ahead of the vote." We will get to work immediately to deliver life-saving resources springing from this bill as soon as it is passed and signed, as we join President Biden in his promise that at last help is on the way."
However, GOP lawmakers blasted the relief package, citing that only 10% is devoted to COVID relief while the rest is a Democratic wish list of wasteful spending dedicated to rewarding blue states in government bailout for their draconian measures.
"House Democrats have abandoned any pretense of unity," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said. "This isn’t a rescue bill, it isn’t a relief bill. It’s a laundry list of left-wing priorities that predate the pandemic."
The $1.9 trillion package dubbed the American Rescue Plan provides $1,400 stimulus checks to individuals making $75,000 or less and to couples earning up to $150,000. The Senate’s version of the bill narrowed the eligibility rate for Americans to receive a relief payment by phasing out individuals earning more than $80,000 to be ineligible. It also provides an additional $350 billion for states and local governments bailout fund, add new funding into COVID vaccine distribution and testing with $50 billion for contact tracing and $16 billion for vaccine distribution, $128 billion for schools reopening, with only 5 percent being devoted to the 2021 fiscal year, and funds for rental and mortgage assistance,
The legislation recently expanded the child tax credit that gives families $3,600 for each child under 6 and $3,000 for each child under age 18. Currently, families can receive a credit of up to $2,000 per child under age 17.
Democrats scrambled to appease Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) who appeared to join alongside Senate GOP last Friday in voting against the first House version of the bill. After a 12-hour stalemate, Democrats finally compromised by reworking the House proposal in keeping the current jobless benefit federal boost at the original $300 per week but extending it for an extra week through Sept. 6. It also provides the first $10,200 in assistance tax-free for those making under $150,000.
The far-reaching measure cost nearly one-tenth the size of the entire U.S. economy. Non-COVID provisions in the package devotes $45 billion for Obamacare, one of the major deficit estimated to impact the economy by adding to it, as well as $50 million in environmental justice grants; $270 million for Arts and Humanities national endowment programs; $570 million of 15 weeks of paid leave for federal employees who were apparently exposed to COVID; $200 million for the Institute of Museums and library services and $10 million to preserve and maintenance of "Native American languages."
After Biden signs the legislation, he will then go on a victory lap by traveling outside Washington and will each be "hitting the road" to engage with Americans on the relief package.