Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 4, 2021.
Joshua Roberts | Reuters
The House plans to pass Democrats’ $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill Tuesday and get fresh aid to Americans starting this month.
The chamber aims to approve the rescue package in time for President Joe Biden to sign it before key unemployment programs expire on Sunday. The Senate passed the legislation on Saturday.
The bill extends a $300 per week boost to unemployment benefits through Sept. 6 and sends direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans. The stimulus money will start hitting accounts this month, Biden said Saturday.
The bill also includes an expansion of the child tax credit, rental payment assistance and funds for Covid-19 vaccine distribution and testing. It directs money to state, local and tribal governments, along with schools.
Democrats passed the bill in the evenly split Senate without Republican support through the budget reconciliation process. They are not expected to win any votes from House Republicans, as the GOP criticizes what it calls wasteful spending in the bill.
When the House passed a different version of the plan last month, no Republicans supported it and two Democrats opposed it. Despite the lack of GOP votes the first time around, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is holding out hope for Republican support.
“The House now hopes to have a bipartisan vote on this life-saving legislation and urges Republicans to join us in recognition of the devastating reality of this vicious virus and economic crisis and of the need for decisive action,” she said in a statement Saturday.
While changes made to appease conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia drew criticism from House progressives, the bill appears set to pass the House on Tuesday. The Senate bill limited the number of people receiving direct payments relative to the House plan by capping them at $80,000 in income for individuals and $160,000 for joint filers.
It also reduced the jobless benefit supplement to $300 from $400 in the House bill. The policy will last an additional week, through Sept. 6.
After the Senate passed the changes, House progressives signaled they would vote for the revised plan.
“Importantly, despite the fact that we believe any weakening of the House provisions were bad policy and bad politics, the reality is that the final amendments were relatively minor concessions,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said in a statement Saturday. “The American Rescue Plan has retained its core bold, progressive elements originally proposed by President Joe Biden and passed in the House relief package.”
Republicans criticized Democrats for pursuing the relief package on their own. The GOP also targeted what it called wasteful spending not needed to end the pandemic and boost the economic recovery.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., argued Democrats wanted to push through “unrelated policy changes that they couldn’t pass honestly.”
McConnell also pointed to a better-than-expected February jobs report as evidence that nearly $2 trillion in spending is unnecessary.
Biden and Democrats have said the country needs the stimulus spending to sustain economic gains and help the millions of people still receiving unemployment benefits or unable to afford food and rent.