September 29, 2022

Seniors and first responders wait in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at the Lakes Regional Library on December 30, 2020 in Fort Myers, Fla.

Octavio Jones | Getty Images

The House pushed ahead with its $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package on Monday, paving the way for the transition later this week.

The Chamber’s Budgets Committee put the bill forward on a vote between 19 and 16 as Democrats rushed to miss the March 14 deadline to extend key unemployment programs. The party is trying to pass the proposal through a budget vote that will allow it to get through the evenly split Senate without Republican support.

The main provisions of the bill include:

  • An unemployment insurance supplement of $ 400 per week through August 29th
  • The expansion of programs from the pandemic era extends unemployment benefits to gig workers and self-employed, and increases the number of weeks that individuals can receive payments through August 29
  • $ 1,400 direct payments for individuals with incomes up to $ 75,000 and couples with incomes up to $ 150,000 that expire with incomes of $ 100,000 and $ 200,000, respectively
  • Household assistance of up to $ 3,600 per child over one year
  • A gradual increase in the federal minimum wage to $ 15 per hour by 2025
  • $ 20 billion for a national Covid-19 vaccination program
  • $ 170 billion to reopen K-12 schools and colleges and to assist students
  • $ 350 billion in support for state, local, and tribal governments

The bill will be sent through the House Rules Committee before it moves to the House Floor, where the Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Hope to pass it this weekend.

Democrats say they want to streamline the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and give a boost to the more than 18 million people receiving unemployment benefits in the U.S. Party leaders have argued that they cannot afford to invest too little money in the federal response as the country tries to regain a sense of normalcy.

“Without additional resources, we’ll never get to where we need to be,” said John Yarmuth, chairman of the House Budgets Committee, D-Ky., At the start of the markup hearing on Monday afternoon.

“We’re not going to wait. We’re going to pass these laws and reverse this pandemic and economic crisis,” Yarmuth said.

Many Republicans have supported funding to step up vaccination efforts, but have questioned the need for another massive aid package.

“This is the wrong plan, at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons,” Missouri Rep. Jason Smith, Republican chief on the Budgets Committee, told the hearing.

Smith noted that some of the money on the bill should not be spent until the following fiscal year. He also asked why part of the stimulus money from the earlier auxiliary bills is not being spent.

Smith tried to postpone the vote until the already-passed stimulus spending was booked, insisting, “I’m not trying to kill your legislation.” The committee rejected this proposal.

President Joe Biden has said he would rather pass a law without GOP support now than spend weeks negotiating and agreeing to a smaller republican-backed plan.

“Critics say the plan is too big,” said Biden on Monday afternoon. “Let me ask you a rhetorical question: what would you let me cut? What would you leave out?”

The President added that he was ready to hear suggestions on how the plan could be made “better and cheaper”.

“But we need to make it clear who we are going to help and who it will hurt,” Biden said.

Congress’ failure to renew the pandemic’s unemployment programs – from its expiration last summer to the passage of another relief bill by lawmakers in December – contributed to millions of Americans falling into poverty.

The bill that the House passes may not be the one that will eventually become law. The Senate parliamentarian still has to decide whether the chamber can pass the minimum wage increase in a reconciliation law.

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have both signaled that they could oppose the wage increase if the Senate proposal allows it.

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