House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package
The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.
The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.
- Two Democrats — Reps. Jared Golden (Maine) and Kurt Schrader (Ore.) — joined Republicans in voting against the bill.
What to watch: The bill will likely undergo an overhaul in the upper chamber after the Senate parliamentarian ruled the $15 minimum wage increase cannot be added in the relief package.
- The House kept the minimum wage increase in its plan, but that was mainly to keep progressive Democrats on board before it gets stripped out in the Senate.
- At a press conference Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders insisted they weren't worried that progressive Democrats might not vote for a final bill with the Senate's changes.
- "There is uniform support for this transformational legislation in the House Democratic caucus. There is no fair to partly cloudy view" of the package, said caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries.
The highlights of the bill:
- Expanded federal funding for COVID programs, including $46 billion for testing and tracing; $7.6 billion for pandemic response at community health centers; $5.2 billion to support research, development and manufacturing of vaccines, therapeutics and other medical products; and $7.7 billion to expand the public health care workforce.
- $1,400 stimulus payments for Americans making less than $75,000. Individuals who make between $75,000 and $100,000 would receive less, with a cap for those earning more than $100,000.
- $128.6 billion to help K-12 schools reopen.
- $350 billion in state and local aid.
- $25 billion in aid to restaurants and other food and drinking establishments.
- $19 billion in emergency rental assistance.
- $7.25 billion in funds for Paycheck Protection Program loans.
- Unemployment benefits would be extended until August 29, and the supplemental benefits would increase from $300 to $400.