House votes to pass $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid package, send to Biden

Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI

March 10 (UPI) — House Democrats have voted to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and send it to the White House for his signature.

Democratic leaders said they received the legislation from the Senate on Tuesday after the upper chamber needed a little more time to finalize the bill. Tuesday night, the House passed a rule by a 219-210 vote that allowed for two hours of debate.

The House convened at 9 a.m. EST to begin Wednesday’s session.

Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York told reporters he was “110% confident” the large-scale relief bill would pass.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is a once-in-a-century crisis,” he said on the House floor Wednesday. “It requires once-in-a-century comprehensive, compassionate and continuing congressional response. That’s what the American Rescue Plan is all about.”

Many analysts, including the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, have hailed the legislation, saying it will turbocharge the U.S. economy amid a pandemic that has killed more than a half-million people and thrown millions out of work. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said Tuesday the bill attacks inequality and poverty “in ways we haven’t seen in a generation.”

The relief package will be Biden’s first major legislative victory and one of the most sweeping stimulus bills in American history. It includes tens of billions for direct stimulus payments, vaccine distribution, an expanded child tax credit and recovery aid for state and local governments.

The legislation also will avert a lapse in benefits for millions that would otherwise expire on Sunday. No Republicans are expected to vote for the bill, believing it too big, too expensive and too wasteful.

House Republican leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy criticized Democrats for using the budget reconciliation process to pass the rescue plan, which will allow passage in both chambers without a single vote from Republicans.

“[Taxpayers] send the government tax dollars but you only get a fraction of what you pay for, at best,” he said Wednesday, arguing that the plan will cost taxpayers about $5,000 each.

“We know for sure that it includes provisions that are not targeted, they’re not temporary, they’re not related to COVID and it didn’t have to be this way,” House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said in The Washington Post. “We could have had a bill that was a fraction of the cost of this one, it could have gotten bipartisan approval and support.”

Some Democrats have compared the rescue plan to the GOP-favored 2017 tax cut, which also cost $1.9 trillion, and the CARES Act a year ago, which most Republicans voted for.

“So much pain, suffering and death and our Republican colleagues want us to do nothing,” Jeffries countered in his remarks Wednesday. “What is wrong with you?”

“We have over 70% of the American people think this bill ought to be passed,” Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters Tuesday.

“I don’t know who our Republican colleagues are listening to … [but] this big and bold legislation fills an urgent need for our economy.”

An attempt to delay passage of the bill by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., was also defeated on Wednesday. Her motion to adjourn the House was opposed by 40 Republicans.

After Biden signs the bill, the Internal Revenue Service will begin sending out $1,400 stimulus payments to individuals who earn up to $80,000. Couples who earn up to $160,000 will also receive a payment.

Biden is expected to sign the bill Wednesday or Thursday.

The White House said Tuesday that paper checks with the new stimulus payment will have one small difference than the previous two, which were sent last March and in December — they will not have the president’s signature on them.

“We are doing everything in our power to expedite the payments and not delay them, which is why the president’s name will not appear on the memo line of this round of stimulus checks,” press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

Former President Donald Trump was criticized last year when he asked that his signature appear on the first two stimulus payments, which have been the only two times in history that a president’s name appeared on an IRS disbursement. Typically, a civil servant signs checks issued by the Treasury to ensure that government payments are nonpartisan.

Trump’s signature went on the “memo” line of both prior payments, not in an actual issuing fashion, because the president has no legal authorization to sign any payments from the Treasury.


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