House of Representatives narrowly passes huge COVID response bill, including $ 15 minimum wage

The House narrowly passed Democrats’ $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill early Saturday, in a tight 219-212 vote that mostly fell in line with parties.

The bill contains $ 1,400 direct payments for most Americans, $ 170 billion to K-12 colleges and schools to cover reopening costs, and $ 70 billion for coronavirus testing and vaccination programs. In addition, the aid package allocates $ 350 billion in funding for state, local and tribal governments.

President Biden has lobbied for the bill to pass, yet Republicans opposed some of the provisions of the legislation, arguing they were clearly bizarre.

“This is not an aid bill. It takes care of the political allies of the Democrats while not complying with American families, ”said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R, California). The Washington Post on Friday. “We already know what the best stimulus plan is: to fully reopen our economy. To do that, we need our economy to go back to work, to school and to get healthy. “

About two hours before the vote, McCarthy said that Congress would not vote on the bill until 2 am Saturday “because Democrats are so embarrassed by all the non-COVID waste in this bill that they are blocking it in the dead of night.”

All House Republicans voted against the bill, as did only two Democrats: Representatives Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon. Both also opposed the Democrats’ $ 3 trillion bill last May that did not become law.

“During difficult times, the country needs its elected leaders to work together to meet the most urgent needs in their communities,” Golden said, explaining his decision to vote against the bill, according to The Associated Press. “This bill addresses urgent needs and then buries them under a mountain of unnecessary or inopportune spending.”

House Democrats included a provision to increase the federal government’s minimum wage to $ 15 an hour, despite the lower likelihood of the provision passing the Senate.

With the Senate tied 50-50, Democrats are attempting to pass the coronavirus relief bill through budget reconciliation procedures, which allow for a simple majority vote rather than a filibuster-proof vote of 60. However , the Senate MP ruled late Thursday that an increase in the minimum wage could not be approved as part of the budget reconciliation.

“It is inevitable for all of us, the $ 15 minimum wage will be achieved,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the floor of the House Friday night, “even if it is inconceivable for some, it is inevitable for us – and we will work diligently to bridge the gap between the inevitable and the inconceivable. “

Lawmakers have worked urgently to ensure that the passed legislation reaches Biden’s desk by March 14, when pandemic unemployment assistance programs expire.

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