House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) attends a press conference on the third day of the impeachment proceedings against former US President Donald Trump on February 11, 2021 in Washington (USA).
Erin Scott | Reuters
Several House committees have approved portions of the Democrats’ $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan as the chamber passes the full package by the end of the month.
The Ways and Means Committee pushed a critical part of the legislation on Thursday evening. It would send $ 1,400 direct payments to most Americans, extend major unemployment programs through late August, and give families up to $ 3,600 a year per child.
Other House Boards, including the Education and Labor, Financial Services, Transportation, and Small Business Committees, have accepted their proposals. As part of the tedious budget reconciliation that the Democrats use to pass legislation without Republican votes, the House Budgets Committee will bundle the individual bills together.
House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday that she believed the House of Representatives would approve the bailout proposal before the end of the month. The California Democrat expects the bill to go through the Senate and across President Joe Biden’s desk before the lifeline for unemployed Americans expires on March 14.
Democrats have said they must act as soon as possible to put more money into efforts to contain the virus, accelerate vaccinations, and encourage Americans struggling to pay for food and housing. With unified but tight control over Congress and the White House, they seem ready to pass a bill on their own instead of taking weeks or months to negotiate a smaller package with the GOP.
Republicans have raised concerns about passing another massive spending bill after lawmakers approved a $ 900 billion bailout plan in December. A group of GOP senators met with Biden earlier this month and made a counter-offer of around $ 600 billion. The Democrats, however, rejected the plan as too small to handle the crisis.
Congress waited months for the December aid package to pass after key unemployment benefits and small business programs expired last summer. Inaction contributed to millions of Americans falling into poverty, finding it difficult to afford food, and receiving no rental payments.
The latest government data shows that more than 20 million people are receiving unemployment benefits.
Democrats still have hurdles to overcome to get the bill through Congress themselves. Not only do you need to ensure that the bill complies with Senate budget rules, but you cannot lose a single democratic vote in the chamber, which is evenly divided between parties.
The Ways and Means Committee portion of the House plan presented on Thursday contains a large part of the overall bailout proposal. It would target a sum of $ 1,400 to individuals earning up to $ 75,000 and couples earning up to $ 150,000.
To allay concerns about an effective targeting of money that was jeopardizing the Senate’s passage of the plan, payments would be phased out so that no person or couple earning more than $ 100,000 and $ 200,000 respectively would receive a check . Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said Thursday that the structure is “right in the ballpark” of what his caucus would support.
The bill, approved by Ways and Means, would increase the current unemployment benefit from $ 300 per week to $ 400 and extend it through August 29. Also, the programs would expand eligibility and the number of weeks that people can take out unemployment insurance on the same date.
The plan would also increase support for households with children. Americans would receive up to $ 3,600 per child for children under 6 and $ 3,000 per child for children under 18.
The relief would expire on an income of $ 75,000 for individuals and $ 150,000 for couples.
Under key provisions in other pieces of legislation, $ 20 billion would go into a national immunization program, $ 170 billion in spending on schools including reopening costs, and $ 350 billion in relief for state, local, and tribal governments. Biden met with a non-partisan group of governors and mayors on Friday to discuss the bailout package.
Before the meeting, he said: “We have to help the states economically” and “make sure they can return to schools”. Biden added that he wanted to hear from the state and local officials whether he should tweak his plan.
The House Democrats have also increased a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour, and Pelosi expects the House to pass the provision in final legislation. However, it is unclear whether the proposal complies with Senate budget rules.
Two Democratic senators – Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona – have also expressed doubts about the adoption of a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the government will take into account the views of Sinema and other senators as it pushes the relief plan.
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