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Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

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.

Go deeper

Senate parliamentarian rules $15 minimum wage cannot be included in relief package

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that the provision to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour cannot be included in the broader $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

Why it matters: It's now very likely that any increase in the minimum wage will need bipartisan support, as the provision cannot be passed with the simple Senate majority that Democrats are aiming to use for President Biden's rescue bill.

Scoop: Schumer wants to freeze stimulus changes

Sen. Chuck Schumer. Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is privately saying he can pass President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus package but wants to avoid any last-minute changes jeopardizing its trajectory, three sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: While the president hoped to enlist Republican support for the measure, Schumer has worked to ensure he has a solid 50 votes to muscle it through if necessary. A parliamentary ruling Thursday improved his chances.

Feb 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Rail's big moment is arriving

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Passenger rail could be the big winner if Congress moves ahead with President Biden's ambitious infrastructure plan.

Why it matters: There's long been bipartisan support for rebuilding America's crumbling infrastructure, but under Biden, the focus has shifted to sustainable projects that fulfill both his climate and equity goals, such as rail transit.