House passes $1.9T pandemic bill on near party-line vote

by Jeremy

WASHINGTON — The House approved a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill that President Joe Biden championed, the first step in providing another dose of aid to a weary nation as the measure now moves to a tense Senate. The new president’s vision for infusing cash across a struggling economy to individuals, businesses, schools, states, and cities battered by COVID-19 passed on a near party-line 219-212 vote early Saturday. That ships the bill to the Senate, where Democrats seem bent on resurrecting their minimum wage push, and fights could erupt over state aid and other issues.

Democrats said that mass unemployment and the half-million American lives lost are causes for quick, decisive action. They said GOP lawmakers are out of step with a public that polling finds largely views the bill favorably.

“I am a happy camper tonight,” Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said Friday. “This is what America needs. Republicans, you ought to be a part of this. But if you’re not, we’re going without you.”

Republicans said the bill was too expensive and said too few education dollars would be spent quickly reopen schools immediately. They said it was laden with gifts to Democratic constituencies like labor unions and funneled money to Democratic-run states they suggested didn’t need it because their budgets had bounced back.

“To my colleagues who say this bill is bold, I say it’s bloated,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “To those who say it’s urgent, I say it’s unfocused. To those who say it’s popular, I say it is entirely partisan.”

The overall relief bill would provide $1,400 payments to individuals, extend emergency unemployment benefits through August and increase tax credits for children and federal subsidies for health insurance.

It also provides billions for schools and colleges, state and local governments, COVID-19 vaccines and testing, renters, food producers, and struggling industries like airlines, restaurants, bars, and concert venues.

The battle is also emerging as an early test of Biden’s ability to hold together his party’s fragile congressional majorities — just ten votes in the House and an evenly divided 50-50 Senate.

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