House Democrats pass $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Democrats passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill Saturday. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Feb. 27 (UPI) — House Democrats on Saturday passed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill despite unanimous Republican opposition.

The COVID-19 relief bill — the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 — passed at 2:01 a.m. by a 219-212 vote with 217 out of 219 Democrats voting in favor and no Republican support, the roll call shows.

The relief includes $1,400 stimulus checks, extended federal unemployment compensation through August, $350 billion in recovery funds to state and local governments, territories and tribes, funding boost to increase capacity for vaccine distribution, food stamps, emergency housing assistance and schools.

The bill also included a gradual raise to a $15 federal minimum wage in four years despite the Senate parliamentarian ruling Thursday that the Senate cannot include such a provision in its relief package. The parliamentarian said the wage hike was not compliant with the Byrd rule, which limits what provisions on taxing and spending can be included in the process of reconciliation that allows Democrats to pass President Joe Biden‘s $1.9 COVID-19 relief plan through the chamber without Republican votes.

Ahead of the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that if the Senate takes out the minimum wage increase, which has been a top priority for liberals, the House will still pass the revised legislation.

“The sooner we pass the bill and it is signed, the sooner we can make the progress that this legislation is all about — saving the lives and the livelihood of the American people,” Pelosi said at a news conference Friday.

Pelosi added Friday that a March 14 deadline to get the bill through both chambers by the time enhanced unemployment benefits are set to expire could be met.

“I would like it well before that,” Pelosi said.

The U.S. economy shed more than 20 million jobs amid the pandemic in April and around half those jobs have returned.

Republicans argued in debate Friday and Saturday the stimulus was an unnecessary political move.

“This isn’t a relief bill. It takes care of Democrats’ political allies while it fails to deliver for American families,” Republican House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California said. “We already know what is the best stimulus plan out there: It is to fully reopen our economy. To do that, we need our economy to go back to work, back to school and back to health.”


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