WASHINGTON — The House voted early Saturday to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package, a step to implementing his vision for bringing the pandemic under control just days after the U.S. crossed the tragic milestone of 500,000 deaths.
The Democratic-controlled House voted 219 to 212 to approve the bill, which includes $1,400 direct payments, a $400-a-week federal unemployment bonus, a per-child allowance of up to $3,600 for one year and billions of dollars to distribute the coronavirus vaccines and to assist schools and local governments.
The vote split largely on partisan lines, with every Republican voting against the measure and just two Democrats joining them — Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where a provision to raise the minimum wage is likely to be removed. But the rest of the package is in good shape to pass as Democrats are using a process that doesn’t require Republican support.
If enacted, it would be the sixth round of aid from the federal government. The economy is still reeling from widespread shutdowns, and most Americans continue to wait their turns to be vaccinated. Democratic leaders want the bill to become law by March 14, when jobless benefits expire.
Biden thanked the House in a brief address Saturday morning and urged the Senate to move quickly to pass the bill and send it to his desk.
“We have no time to waste,” Biden said. “The people of this country have suffered far too much for too long. We need to relieve that suffering, and the American Rescue Plan does just that.”
Earlier Saturday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaking on the House floor, called the legislation “transformative” at mitigating poverty. “We are putting money in workers’ pockets… As President Biden has said, help is on the way.”
The legislation faces broad opposition from congressional Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., decried it as a “liberal pipedream” and said Democrats were “jamming it through in the dead of night.”
“Don’t call it a rescue bill. Don’t call it a relief bill,” he said. “For the American people, it is a loser.”
The $1,400 checks would be sent to individuals who make up to $75,000 a year or married couples making $150,000, and payments would gradually decrease for those who make more, zeroing out at $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for couples.
“Everything is not fixed. We have a long way to go. And that day when everything gets back to normal depends on all of us,” Biden said Thursday at an event to mark the 50 millionth coronavirus vaccination shot. “It depends on Congress passing the American Recovery Act.”
Progressives Angry About Minimum Wage
The House bill also includes a federal minimum wage hike from $7.25 to $15 per hour, phased in over…